November 22nd, 2014 / posted by paularath
Rainy day view from the bus to Glenorchy, the area where "Lord of the Rings" was filmed.

Rainy day view from the bus to Glenorchy, the area where “Lord of the Rings” was filmed.

Ah spring! Unpredictable and sometimes frustrating, but fraught with creativity.

Sadly, our flight on a fixed-wing plane over Milford Sound was cancelled today due to rain. However we are staying in a lovely B & B with lots of space and we decided to turn it into a painting studio.

Mind you, we have stayed in lovely B & Bs all over the world, but Queenstown House takes the cake for sociability. Not only does everyone engage in conversation at breakfast, but there’s a wine and canapé hour that’s practically mandatory. Everyone shares what they did today and what they plan to do tomorrow. There’s the couple from Mumbai who were going out on Lake Wakatipu; the English couple who just completed both the Milford and Routebourn tracks (nine days of tramping, which means hiking); the Aussies from Perth who were here to play golf; the Aussies from Sydney who just returned from a cruise of Milford Sound before it shut down; the couple from London who were heading to Wanaka for nature walks and two guys from Alabama who have been fly fishing all week.

Here are a few of our paintings:

Jerry's painting of the view from our room at Maple Lodge in Wanaka.

Jerry’s painting of the view from our room at Maple Lodge in Wanaka.

Paula's interpretation of the view from our window in Wanaka.

Paula’s interpretation of the view from our window in Wanaka.

Jerry's painting of a window seat in the Guest House in Waiheke Island.

Jerry’s painting of a window seat in the Guest House in Waiheke Island.

Jerry's painting of a sunset on the Crystal Symphony.

Jerry’s painting of a sunset on the Crystal Symphony.

Paula's painting of the Remarkable Mountains, near Queenstown, N.Z.

Paula’s painting of the Remarkable Mountains, near Queenstown, N.Z.

The weather is expected to clear tomorrow and we will be going on an overnight cruise of Doubtful Sound and the spectacular fjords of the Fjordland National Park. For me, it is the highlight or our trip to New Zealand and I am so excited!

- Paula Rath

November 22nd, 2014 / posted by paularath

 

View from our room at Queenstown House

View from our room at Queenstown House

We are now in Queenstown, New Zealand, often called the Adventure Capital of the World. Extreme athletes of every stripe come here to test their skills and their will. Everything from bungy jumping to jet boating, kayaking, white water rafting, biking – you name it and they’ve got it.

Unfortunately, they also have extreme weather. They are having a really bad spring and that has meant two of our tours were cancelled due to massive rains. Yesterday we took a beautiful bus ride to the tiny town of Glenorchy, where we were to take a jet boat up the Dart River. Nope.

We got rained out. But it was a gorgeous drive even in the rain. This stretch is considered one of the ten most beautiful drives in the world. Much of the “Lord of the Rings” was filmed right in this area.

Glenorchy is a charming tiny town, population 431. The photo below is the town’s library and behind it is the church. As we drove past the school, which serves 27 students, about a dozen kids were out dancing barefoot in the rain.

- Paula Rath

Glenorchy bus ride (5)

November 20th, 2014 / posted by paularath
At the very top of Mou Waho Island is Arethusa Pool. A bit steep to get to, but so worth it!

At the very top of Mou Waho Island is Arethusa Pool. A bit steep to get to, but so worth it!

The weather cleared enough to enable us to go out onto Lake Wanaka and on to the tiny island of Mou Waho, which has a little lake inside it – so it’s essentially a lake on an island in a lake on an island. It happened because, 10,000 – 15,000 years ago, a glacier moved along and left this phenomenon behind.

The island affords amazing views of Lake Wanaka. It is also a nature preserve and our guide, Andy, taught us so much about the flora and fauna and birds of the island. He also planted a tree there. His company believes a tree must be planted on Mou Waho every time they visit.

Mao Waho Andy tree

 

When we arrived on the island I was afraid the hiking was going to be a bit treacherous. I have an easy time hiking up but the down can scare me. Although steep, the trail was not treacherous. Just a really good workout!

Mou Waho boat

he view from the top of Mou Waho island.

The view from the top of Mou Waho island.

November 20th, 2014 / posted by paularath

 

Our Landrover for the day. Photo by Jerry Mayfield

Our Landrover for the day. Photo by Jerry Mayfield

A typical turn on the road through the remote sheep farm in Wanaka.

A typical turn on the road through the remote sheep farm in Wanaka.

Wanaka is a small town in the middle of the southern portion of the South Island. People talk about Wanaka as “the next Queensland,” poised for tourism. Currently it is a place where many New Zealand families go for their private get-away vacations. It’s all about camping and fishing and tramping (hiking) and water sports, although the lake is far too cold for swimming during most of the year except for polar bears.

We had two wilderness experiences in Wanaka, each very different and each absolutely perfect. The days got switched for our excursions because a snow storm in the mountains and gale winds made the lake really, really choppy so our lake excursion was Wednesday instead of Tuesday.

On Tuesday we took a four-wheel drive trip up the mountains, climbing 3,000 feet, to a working sheep and cattle farm. The Eco Adventures company we went with is the only company with access to the farm. There are seven locked gates you have to go through and only they – and the farmers – have the codes for the gates.  There were only five of us – a couple from Leeds in England and the terrific guide, Steve, and us – so it was quiet and felt so remote.

Wanaka 4wheel mountains

The drive itself was really fun and exciting and the views of the lake and the mountains simply breathtaking. And we saw thousands of deer, sheep and cattle. We stopped for tea near a stream and were able to get in a brisk and beautiful alpine walk.

That's Jerry, Bob and Linda walking down to a stream to have tea.

That’s Jerry, Bob and Linda walking down to a stream to have tea.

Wanaka Lake was created by glaciers and some boulders have been left behind.

Wanaka Lake was created by glaciers and some boulders have been left behind.

We couldn't be happier to be surrounded by such beauty!

We couldn’t be happier to be surrounded by such beauty!

- Paula Rath

Wanaka crossing stream

November 19th, 2014 / posted by paularath
The post office in Clyde, NZ, where each resident still has a puka for their personal mail.

The post office in Clyde, NZ, where each resident still has a puka for their personal mail. Photos by Jerry Mayfield

We had a beautiful travel guide drive us from Dunedin to Wanaka. Her name is Tracey MacLaren and she lives in Arrowtown, near Queenstown. Her sister lives in Dunedin so the whole thing works well for her – and for us.

Tracey did what many NZ people do when they finish college: She went traveling and working abroad. Only instead of one year of travel, which is typical, she spent seven years traveling and working around the world before she came home to NZ – to work in the travel industry. She’s a great resource.

A typical Clyde home. The roses and peonies are amazing!

A typical Clyde home. The roses and peonies are amazing!

We made it a leisurely drive through small towns that feel as though they have transported you back to the ’30s or ’40s. Quite a bit of art deco, lovely rose and peony gardens and friendly, warm people.

We have talked to many people who don’t even lock their doors – car or house doors – because NZ is still such a safe place to live.

The Dunstan Hotel, where Tracy and her friends stayed during a friend's wedding in Clyde.

The Dunstan Hotel, where Tracy and her friends stayed during a friend’s wedding in Clyde.

We stopped for lunch in Alexandra and the food was fabulous and the weather was nice enough for us to eat at a picnic table outdoors. Later, Tracey took us for ice cream. The favored ice cream in NZ is by a company called Tip Top and the flavor is Hokey-Pokey. It’s a rich vanilla with bits of honey throughout. Delicious!

Tracey then took us to our B & B, Maple Lodge. It is a few miles outside of the town of Wanaka in a lovely setting with horses next door and a lavender farm across the street. So quiet and quaint!

The owners, Paul and Berny (Bernadette) Raymont, could not be more gracious and welcoming. It’s quiet and restful and lovely. There’s even a Scrabble set and lending library.

Everyone in Wanaka is talking about the weather, however. It is still snowing and it’s late spring! The mountains around us are snow-capped, which is highly unusual but awfully pretty.

- Paula Rath