21.02.2012 - 24.02.2012
21 - 24 Feb
Uneventful drive to Te Anau from Queenstown, after we spent a very pleasant couple of hours swapping holiday tales over coffee with the Cresseys of Monkseaton. Small world eh? Oh, apart from passing what appeared to be a group of characters from a John Wayne western. Numerous cowboys on horseback, a stagecoach and a couple of covered wagons. And no, they weren't being chased by Apaches.
Trip to Doubtful Sound, a long deep sea inlet surrounded by mountains, think Norwegian fjord without the Vikings. By bus then boat then bus then boat and reversed for return. Stunning landscapes, loads of marine life (penguins, dolphins, fur seals, albatrosses, skuas, terns, kangaroos). Ok, I made that last one up. Returned via a visit to a hydro power station (no, I didn't make that one up). It's located deep inside a mountain and our coach passed through a 1 mile long access tunnel (think Tyne Tunnel without the tolls), to get to the turbine room - just skip this if you're bored already - where water drops 600 ft from Lake Manapouri to drive the turbines and generate electricity, before flowing down a 4 mile tunnel into Doubtful Sound. Simples!
Another quite long drive, our last of the trip, this time from Te Anau to Dunedin. It rained from the moment we got out of bed in the morning, until the moment we got back into bed that night. Well, we've been quite lucky all trip so we were due a wet day. And off course, it keeps the lakes filled and the countryside green. After we reached Dunedin, we spent the afternoon and evening in the city centre. Spent a bit of time in the city art gallery, saw a Turner depicting Dunstanburgh Castle. Like I said earlier, small world.
A better day for our last full one in NZ. The Otago peninsular just outside of Dunedin is famous for its albatross and penguin colonies, as well as beaches and a few hills so off we went. First call was Larnach Castle & gardens, claimed to be the only castle in NZ. More stately home than castle, it was built in the 19th centiry by a wealthy politician & banker who made his fortune in the days of the Australian gold rush, to impress his young wife of French descent. Pity she didn't like it.
After a quick visit to Sandfly Bay (penguins here apparently but we didn't see any), we continued to an albatross breeding colony at the end of the peninsula. Because of its protected status, a guide takes you to a hide to view the rare Royal Albatross close up. These birds are enormous, when something with a 10ft wingspan passes close overhead, you instinctively duck - and that's under a roof! We were lucky enough to see an adult sitting nearby with a 3 week old chick, even this was a big as a pigeon.
One more thing, there's an old fort here with a big gun dating back to the early 1900s. And it was made, yes, you guessed, at the Armstrong Works on Scotswood Road. It really is a riidiculously small world!