New Zealand geographically comprises two main landmasses -- the North
Island, and the South Island -- and around 600 smaller islands.
Because of its remoteness (2,000 kilometers from Australia and 1,000
kilometers from other Pacific island areas), it was one of the last lands to
be settled by humans (New Zealand was first settled by
Eastern Polynesians between 1250 and 1300 after ~80 million years of
geographic isolation) . During its long period of isolation, New Zealand
developed a distinct biodiversity of animal, fungal, and plant life.
The South Island (our main destination for this trip), with an area of
150,437 km2 (58,084 sq. mi), is the largest land mass of New Zealand and is
the world's 12th-largest island. It is divided along its length
by the Southern Alps, the highest peak of which is Aoraki/Mount Cook at
3,724 meters (12,218 ft.). The east side of the island is home to
the Canterbury Plains while the West Coast is famous for its rough
coastlines such as Fiordland, and Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers. The dramatic
landscape of the South Island has made it a popular location for the
production of several films, including The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Getting there ...
|We had a red-eye direct flight
from San Francisco on the night of 2/15 to Auckland (13+ hours), and
then a domestic flight to Christchurch in the South Island as our
whole trip will focus on the South Island only. It was a
long walk from the International Terminal to the Domestic Terminal
at the Auckland airport (more than 1km), and we almost had to run
with our luggage when we got out of the custom since our flight was
delayed when departed from San Francisco and we had less than an hour to make our
connection. Luckily the flight to Christchurch had a 30-min
delay so we were allowed to re-check in our luggage at the last
minute and still had a few more minutes available at the gate to go to the
restroom before we boarded the airplane :-)
There is a 21-hour
time difference between New Zealand and San Francisco, so it was
already 2/17 (Day 3) afternoon when we arrived in our destination
Christchurch. The first challenge: driving on the
2/17 (Day 3) ...
Christchurch is the largest city in the South Island, and it is the
3rd-most populous city (with ~400,000 in 2018) in New Zealand.
The city suffered a series of earthquakes between September 2010 and early
2012, with the most destructive of them occurring at 12.51 p.m. on
Tuesday, 22 February 2011, in which 185 people were killed and thousands
of buildings across the city collapsed or suffered severe damage.
The city is still recovering with many rebuild projects in different
areas. Unfortunately, 2 weeks after our vacation, a terrorist attack
on 2 mosques killed 50 people in this quiet and peaceful city...
After checked in to the hotel in the downtown, we
walked to visit Canterbury Museum and Christchurch Botanic Gardens.
The Canterbury Museum has a wide range of collections of human and natural
history with a focus on Canterbury and Antarctica. It is worth the
visit and it is free!
2/18 (Day 4) ...
- Sunrise at New Brighton Pier, Christchurch
- Gem Alpaca
One the way
to Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, we stopped by Gem
Alpaca Stud in Fairlie to have a farm visit. Alpaca, a species of
South American camelid and closely related llamas, is so cute and so
adorable that Iris asked if we could bring one home when we sent her a
picture of an alpaca baby :-) We learned that alpacas are
typically sheared in mid Nov to Dec in New Zealand, so if we want to see
a puffy alpaca we will need to come in Nov next time.
- Lake Tekapo
Lake Tekapo gets its intense milky-turquoise color
from the fine rock-flour ground by glaciers.
Lake Tekapo is famous for its dark night sky (I am not very into
astronomy photography) and lupines (blooming in mid-Nov to Dec).
In mid-Feb, I managed to find a few scattered
lupines as my photo objects.
- Mount Cook Road
We stopped by
NZ Alpine Lavender farm
on the Mount Cook Road. It was already way passed the blooming
season, but it was still a nice place to take a break with scenic
landscapes (and it still charged NZ$5 entrance fee...).
We also stopped by a few view points along the way
(including the famous
Peter's Lookout). However, it was getting too cloudy that Mount
Cook was not visible at all.
- Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park
We arrived at the Mount Cook
Village in the late afternoon. After a short break, we took the
easy Glencoe Walk which winds through beech forest up to a lookout point
of the Southern Alps. The weather was getting worse and mountains
were all covered behind fog and cloud, and rain and storm were on the
way to the area.
2/19 (Day 5) ...
- Kea Point, Mount Cook
It was raining hard when we woke up
in the morning. Although it was raining, we were well
prepared for this trip (waterproof raincoat, pants, and boots) and were
ready to hike in this kind of weather. We decided to take the Kea
Point Track first since it was shorter (than Hooker Valley Track) and we
could easily start from the Village center. It was an easy trail
gently winding its way through subalpine grasslands and scrub to the
Mueller Glacier moraine wall. After 90 min of walk, it was still
raining without any sign of improving, so we retraced our path back to the
village and took a brunch break to dry ourselves up.
- Hooker Valley, Mount Cook
After a long break (we even watched a
3-D Mount Cook movie at the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Center) and some
hesitation, we decided to go on to Hooker Valley even with the heavy rain
and wind. The Hooker Valley Track is definitely one of the great
hikes under the normal condition, and it became even more fun
under the "extreme" conditions. Just imagine you had to go through
3 suspension bridges when gusts of winds blew you off balance :-)
Although it was not possible to get any decent photos (I could not even
take out my camera sometimes), it was actually one of the most
interesting hikes we have ever done.
- Mount Cook Village
After 4 hours of wet conditions outdoors, we
were back to our room in the village to clean up (hot showers were never
felt so good before). When we had a relaxed early dinner in the dining
room, the sky started to clear up and a rainbow appeared. I had to ran
back to the room to fetch the camera to get out for a few rainbow shots.
2/20 (Day 6) ...
- Tasman Lake
Tasman Lake is a proglacial lake formed by the recent
retreat of the Tasman Glacier. In the early 1970s, there were
several small meltwater ponds on the Tasman Glacier. By 1990,
these ponds had merged into Tasman Lake, which has quickened the retreat
of the Tasman Glacier. By 2008 the lake was 7 km long, 2 km wide
and 245 m deep, having almost doubled in area since 2000.
We took the
trail up to Tasman Glacier View (up 100 meters) with
good views of the lower Tasman Glacier and the mountains at the head of
the valley, and then took the trail down to the Tasman Lake where many
icebergs could be seen floating in the lake along the shore.
- Peter's Lookout, Mount Cook Road
When we headed out
of Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park,
we stopped by the Peter's Lookout again. The weather was much
better than 2 days ago when we came, but unfortunately Mount Cook was still
not visible :-(
- Wineries in Central Otago
Central Otago is the world’s
southernmost wine producing region and New Zealand’s only true
“continental” region with greater extremes of daily and seasonal
temperatures than those found in any of the country’s maritime regions.
It is also New Zealand’s most scenic wine region. We visited 3 wineries
for wine tasting:
Mt. Difficulty in Cromwell
Peregrine Winery in Gibbston
Gibbston Valley Winery
Kawarau Bridge Bungy
The Kawarau Gorge Suspension Bridge was the world's first commercial
bungy jumping site in 1988. We came by this place to be a
spectator. I think we are getting too old to try it...
We checked in to our hotel in Queenstown in the late
afternoon. Its huge balcony with
180-degree panoramic view of Lake
Wakatipu waterfront is really incredible!
Queenstown is a resort
town on the shore line of Lake Wakatipu. Queenstown is known for
its commerce-oriented tourism, especially adventure and ski tourism.
Skiing and snowboarding, jet boating, whitewater rafting, bungy
jumping, mountain biking, skateboarding, tramping, paragliding, sky
diving and fly fishing are all popular.
2/21 (Day 7) ...
Sunrise from the balcony!
- Lake Wakatipu
It's about an hour drive from Queenstown to
Glenorchy via very scenic Glenorchy-Queenstown Road.
However, the weather has turned from a spectacular sunrise to a dim
- Dart River, Glenorchy
We booked a full-day "Funyaks"
tour (8:30AM--3:30PM). The journey began with an exhilarating jet boat
ride up the Dart River deep into the heart of the world-renowned Mt
Aspiring National Park. From there we disembarked and switched to
Funyaks (inflatable kayaks) to travel back down river at our own
pace exploring pristine waters as they flow from the Southern Alps to
Lake Wakatipu. Since we were not very comfortable with our
kayaking skills, a guide (she is actually from China and speaks Chinese)
volunteered to ride with us,
which made our kayaking experience really smooth and enjoyable.
It rained most of time during our boat/kayak trip. But it did
not really matter since we had our
wetsuit and waterproof
jacket, and we were getting wet on the river anyway. I bought a new
360-degree camera Rylo for this New
Zealand trip. With its 2 fish-eye lenses (in a waterproof housing)
and post processing app, it's interesting to capture some moments/angles
otherwise hard to get.
After the full-day fun on the river, we were back to
Glenorchy and started to drive around the countryside.
Glenorchy is nestled on the northern shores of Lake Wakatipu and is the
gateway to hiking trails and Middle‑earth magic. Glenorchy’s
spectacular landscapes have become a prime location for film scouts,
depicting many scenes from The Lord of the Rings trilogy (e.g.,
Isengard) as well as featuring in the Narnia movies.
- Queenstown Skyline
A scenic Gondola ride to the top of
Bob's Peak provides the panoramic views of Queenstown and the
surrounding mountains. I booked a dinner package (premium dining
including wine for 2 and a window table) at 8:45PM, so we go up in the
Gondola at around 7PM and enjoyed the nice views while we were waiting
for our table.
2/22 (Day 8) ...
- Te Anau - Milford Highway
It's a long drive from Queenstown to
Milford Sound (almost 300 km and ~4 hours of driving)
although the direct distance is only about 70 km on the map. We stopped at Te
Anau for a quick lunch and continued the scenic drive along Te Anau - Milford Highway.
Eglinton Valley: One of the first
highlights of a trip to Milford Sound after entering Fiordland National
Park is the Eglinton Valley. It was carved out by glaciers thousands of
years ago. Today, steep rocky mountains covered in native beech forest
line the valley. The flat floor of the valley is covered in eye-catching
golden tussock grass.
Mirror Lakes: On a calm day they provide
breathtaking reflections of the Earl mountain ranges opposite. It even
has a "Mirror Lakes" sign upside down
for people to take pictures.
Lake Gunn Natural Walk: An easy loop walk
provides an introduction to tall red beech/tawhairaunui forest and birdlife
of the Eglinton valley. It's so green everywhere!
The Chasm is a series of gushing waterfalls just a
short walk from the road. It was formed by the Cleddau
River being forced through a narrow rocky valley on its course down from the
Darran mountains. Over the centuries, this process sculpted the
surrounding rocks into marvelous swirling patterns and smoothed-out basins.
The sheer force of the water as it pounds through the Chasm is impressive to
behold – but notoriously difficult to photograph. It’s hard to capture
the depth and volume of these waterfalls from any one angle.
Deep within Fiordland National Park lies Milford
Sound, New Zealand’s most stunning natural attraction. With its magical
combination of mountain peaks, ink-dark waters and superb dramatic
forest-clad cliffs, it must be seen to be believed.
After checked in
to the Milford Sound Lodge,
the only public accommodation provider in Milford Sound, we headed to
the Milford Sound Lookout at the shore to get the first glimpse of the
iconic Mitre Peak. We decided to go back to the hotel to have an
early dinner, and came back to the Lookout after dinner for sunset.
Although it was too cloudy to have any golden light, the tranquility was
still worth the effort.
2/23 (Day 9) ...
- Milford Sound
Milford Sound is actually a fiord, not a sound.
Sounds are formed when a river valley is flooded by the sea, whereas
Milford Sound was formed by the erosion of ancient glaciers.
The length of Milford Sound is approximately 16km (9.94 miles) from the
head of the fiord to the open sea, which means visitors can comfortably
travel along it to the open ocean and return on one of the many regular
Milford Sound cruises. In places the fiord is up to 400m (1,312 feet)
- Milford Sound Cruise
The cruise in the Milford Sound is
definitely a highlight of the trip. I booked a package from the
Milford Sound Lodge (Taste of Milford) which included a one-night
Chalet, a dinner and breakfast, and the cruise from the Southern
Discoveries "Encounter Nature" cruise with the entrance to the Discover
Center and Underwater Observatory. The weather began to clear up
to show blue sky when the cruise started at 9:30AM. The west
coast of the South Island is notorious for its high rainfall, and
Milford Sound is no exception. The mean annual rainfall in Milford
Sound is 7,000mm
(more than 9,000mm in some wettest years) , and it rains there on
average 182 days a year. I think we were so lucky that I could not have
a better day to cruise in the Milford Sound (although someone may claim
that a bad weather day is also good since many temporary waterfalls will
show up on cliffs). The boat got very close to a cliff where a
waterfall was pouring down with a vibrant
crew put glasses on the
deck to catch the water from the waterfalls for passengers to taste
the fresh glacier
- Lake Marian Trail
After 3+ hours of cruise, we left the Milford
Sound area and detoured a little bit to the Hollyford Road to take a
short hike on Lake Marian Trail. We did not really go all the way
to the Lake. We crossed the swing bridge and continued for ~15 min
to the spectacular series of waterfalls.
- Te Anau
We drove back to Te Anau where we will stay for one
night. When we were about to enter the city, there were a
few alpacas in a small farm and I could not resist to stop to take a few
pictures of them.
Te Anau Glowworm Caves
After dinner, we walked to the Real Journeys Visitor Center to take our
Te Anau Glowworm Caves tour at 8:15PM. My original reasons to take
the late evening tour were 1) it is about sunset time when we cruise on
the Lake Te Anau, and 2) it really does not matter whether it is day or
night when we are in the caves. It turned out that reason #1 did
not work well as it started to rain in the late afternoon, but reason #2
was indeed quite true. By geological standards the caves are very
young (12,000 years) and are still being carved out by the force of the
river that flows through them. Deep inside the caves, beyond the roar
of the water, you will be taken by small boat into a silent hidden
grotto inhabited by thousands of glowworms, unique to New Zealand.
It was not possible to take any picture inside the caves. A video
introduction after the cave tour was quite educational and useful to
understand the details about glowworms (and it helped us prepare our
next glowworm visit in Tatare Tunnels in Franz Josef
Glacier 4 days later).
2/24 (Day 10) ...
We drove from Te Anau to Manapouri to prepare for our
next exciting journey: an overnight cruise in Doubtful Sound.
There is no road to Doubtful Sound directly. To get there, we
first need to take a boat to cross Lake Manapouri,
and then a van on the gravel road (the road was originally built for
moving heavy equipment for the Manapouri power station) across Wilmot
Pass to a small wharf in Deep Cove, the innermost end of Doubtful Sound.
- Doubtful Sound Cruise
Doubtful Sound was named "Doubtful
Harbor" in 1770 by Captain Cook, who did not enter the inlet as he was
uncertain whether it was navigable under sail. It was later renamed
Doubtful Sound by whalers and sealers, although it is not technically
a sound but a fiord (similar to the mistake of Milford Sound). At
40 kilometers (25 mi) long, Doubtful Sound is the second longest, and
with a depth of up to 421 meters (1,381 ft.), the deepest of the South
Island's fiords. In comparison with Milford Sound, it is more
widespread, with the cliffs not as dramatically tall and near vertical.
I book an overnight cruise from
The scenery was wonderful and the weather was perfect, and the most
amazing thing was that the dinner was the freshly caught seafood:
passengers (total 11 of us)
fish our own dinner
and the crews dived
to catch lobsters (well, I did my special order of pork and beef for my
dinner). After fishing, the boat was anchored and the crews
prepared for dinner, and some people took the chance to kayak around.
Although it was quite calm in the afternoon, we decide to pass kayaking
and just relaxed on board.
2/25 (Day 11) ...
Doubtful Sound Cruise
I woke up early before sunrise to see the sky
start to change color subtly. It was another perfect day!
were back to Deep Cove at about 9AM, and retraced our path across
Wilmot Pass (where we got off the car to have a nice
view of Doubtful Sound),
took a boat to cross Lake Manapouri, and returned to Manapouri at about
- Drive to Wanaka
Driving from Fiordland back to the Central Otago
region changed the sceneries from wet rainforests to open drier plains
and pastures. I think we saw much more sheep than people in New
- Crown Range Road
The Crown Range lies between Queenstown and
Wanaka. The road over the range, known as the Crown Range Road, is the
highest main road reaching an altitude of 1121 meters
in New Zealand. The road zigzags up to the Crown Terrace
from Queenstown and from there you can look down to Arrowtown in the
Arrow Valley, and across to the Remarkables Range.
- Cardrona Bra Fence (Bradrona)
The Cardrona Bra Fence is a
controversial tourist attraction in Central Otago. It began
around 1999, when four bras mysteriously appeared overnight on a fence
along the Cardrona Valley Road. Over years the news spread and
more bras appeared. Although some locals welcomed the fence and
regarded it as a tourist attraction, others viewed it as an eyesore and
embarrassment, and as a potential hazard to drivers using the road.
Frequent legal attempts were consequently made to see it removed.
The fence eventually became so popular, it had to be moved from the main
highway to a private driveway entrance of "The Cardrona" to avoid
traffic hazards. The infamous fence was
rebranded to "Bradrona" in 2015 to raise money for breast cancer.
- Puzzling World, Wanaka
Puzzling World is a unique attraction with
a theme of 'weird' full of illusions and imagination. The outdoor
Great Maze (Labyrinth) is an intriguing challenge, and there are
emergency doors to get out the maze for those with limited patience
- Lake Wanaka
We stayed in a beautiful boutique bed and breakfast
homestead with a short distance to the lake. After dinner (our own
delicious instant noodle), we got the free bikes from the lodge to ride
along the lake.
2/26 (Day 12) ...
- Lake Wanaka Sunrise
The Wanaka Tree is probably one of the most
photographed trees in New Zealand. It is actually in the middle of
- Mount Aspiring National Park
Mount Aspiring National Park is a
wonderful mixture of remote wilderness, high mountains and beautiful
river valleys. It offers many day hike opportunities in the West
Matukituki Valley region. At the end of the gravel road (Raspberry
Flat Carpark), we started our hike to Rob Roy Valley (10 km round trip).
A swing bridge, 15 min from the car park, crosses the West Matukituki
River downstream from the Rob Roy Stream junction. After crossing the
bridge, the track climbs through a small gorge into beech forest, then
into alpine vegetation at the head of the valley with good views of the
Rob Roy Glacier.
2/27 (Day 13) ...
- Driving in heavy rain
I had plans to stop by a few places, such
the Neck between Lake Hawea and Lake Wanaka, Blue Pools at the
east side of Mount Aspiring, and a few waterfalls along the Highway 6
scenic drive, when we moved from Wanaka toward the West Coast.
However, the heavy rain had changed all these plans. We only
stopped by the visitor centers at Makarora and Haast to do quick
restroom breaks (and we were all very wet already).
booked a Fox Glacier Heli-Hike at 2:50PM. When we arrived at Fox
Glacier at about noon, the rain was still pouring hard and we decided to
reschedule our Glacier tour to the next day.
- Rainforest Retreat, Franz Josef Glacier
When we arrived at
Franz Josef Glacier at about 2PM, the rain has stopped and sky has
started to clear up.
With an annual rainfall of ~ 4,000mm in
Franz Josef (Westland Tai Poutini National Park), the area is covered
thickly by rainforests and it looks like we are in Hawaii (but much
- Tatare Tunnels
After 10 minutes walk on a
four wheel drive road, the track climbs gently then drops to a view of
the scenic Tatare Gorge. The track then becomes steep and narrow for the
short climb to the Tatare Tunnels. Pioneer miners drove a 500
meter tunnel system through from the Tatare Gorge to pipe water to the
Waiho terrace. In 1938 water from the Tatare Tunnels powered a small
hydro station in the Tatare Gorge until it was destroyed by a slip in
You will need a torch and a raincoat to explore the
tunnels, and you will get wet feet as the water may be ankle deep.
Inside the tunnel it was totally dark and there were plenty of glowworms
glowing on the tunnel ceiling when we blocked out the flashlight and let
our eyes adjust to the darkness. Unlike the tour at the Te Anau
Caves, here we can observe
glowworms up close
and see their webs dangling everywhere.
2/28 (Day 14) ...
- Franz Josef Glacier
We had our first heli-hike scheduled at 9:45AM. After a quick
check-in and fitness questionnaire, we had a brief about the tour and
equipment with our guide, and then we took a short walk across the
street to the helipad to wait for our ride. It was an exciting
experience to ride on a helicopter (although I had been on a helicopter
before in Hawaii) and it was good that Woanyu was willing to take her
first helicopter ride. It was a short 5-min ride from the base to
the landing zone on the glacier with
amazing views during
the flight. The hiking route on glacier was well planned and
maintained that there was no difficulty at all for anyone with normal
mobility. Walking with crampons on ice was like a normal hike with
additional crunching sound. With 3-hour on ice and slow pace, it
was quite an unforgettable experience to explore the nature beauty.
- Fox Glacier
rescheduled our Fox Glacier Heli-Hike from yesterday (due to bad
weather), we had only about 30 minutes to drive from Franz Josef Glacier
(where we just finished our first heli-hike and back to base at 2:15PM)
to Fox Glacier for our 2:50PM tour. Luckily the traffic was not
bad (we did drive fast and no slow cars blocking us) and we actually did
it in less than 20 minutes. It was another fantastic helicopter
ride but the weather was not as good as in the morning. Although
the glacier was also magnificent and impressive, I did feel the hiking
routing on Fox Glacier was shorter and less organized than Franz Josef
Glacier as we stopped on the trail very often for no particular reason
(the guide seemed just try to kill time by chatting with a few people).
Since the ice and weather conditions changed quickly and dramatically
from time to time (as it just had heavy rain yesterday that many ice
formations and tracks were washed away), it was difficult for me to do a
fair comparison between Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier by only one
visit (although I think there are not that many people who are crazy
enough to do two heli hikes back to back on the same day!).
- Lake Matheson
After heli hike at Fox Glacier, we went to a cafe
at Lake Matheson for dinner (as we did not have time
for lunch). The waters of Lake Matheson are dark brown, so
on a calm day they create the ideal reflective surface, and the
mountains to the east are perfectly positioned to reflect in the lake.
It happened to be such a calm day and a perfect reflection (although
Mount Cook was still behind the cloud and was not visible).
way back to Franz Josef Glacier, we suddenly saw a majestic mountain
appearing on our right-hand side when we made a turn to an open space,
and realized it was the Mount Cook
which we have not been able to see at all occasions until now.
3/1 (Day 15) ...
- Hokitika Beach
We drove north along the Highway 6 and stopped by
a beach in Hokitika, where there is a shipwreck memorial and many
driftwood artworks. Every January there is an annual Driftwood and
Sand Beach Sculpture Festival event. Anyone can enter and are encouraged
to build sculptures from what they can find on the beach.
- National Kiwi Center
The National Kiwi Center is situated in the heart of Hokitika and
provides the opportunity to get up close and personal with New Zealand’s
national icon, kiwi.
We can see these endangered birds up close in their nocturnal home,
which is a custom-built replica of their natural environment with
reversed day/night cycles so we can see them activities "at night".
Since kiwis are very sensitive to light, it is not allowed to take any
photos of kiwis (instead every visitor is given a picture of kiwi).
We timed our visit so we could see and
eels at noon. The giant Longfin freshwater eels are endemic to
New Zealand and some are over 80 years old!
- Arthur's Pass
Arthur's Pass National Park is situated between
Canterbury and the West Coast in the South Island of New Zealand.
Not only is Arthur’s Pass a key link between east and west, but it is
also known for its immense natural beauty, and rare flora and fauna.
The eastern side of Arthur's Pass National Park is characterized by
wide, shingle-filled riverbeds and vast beech forests. The western side
of the park, where wet weather is more common than dry, has deeply
gorged rivers flowing through dense rainforest. Down the middle of 'the
great divide' is an alpine dreamland of snow-covered peaks, glaciers and
The village at Arthur's Pass is the starting point for
many short walks. We picked the easy and popular Devils Punchbowl
Walking Track to walk up to the base of the 131-meter waterfall.
3/2 (Day 16) ...
- Bealey Valley
From the car park opposite Jacks Hut, the track
follows a short section of the Arthur’s Pass Walking Track before
branching off to cross Bealey Chasm -- a narrow channel where the river
cascades over huge boulders. For stunning views of Mt
Rolleston/Kaimatau, continue on for a couple of minutes, climbing a hill
to a snowgrass clearing. The track reenters the beech forest and ends
when you reach the Bealey River with the mountain view again.
It's time to head south to drive back to
Christchurch. Before we left the national park, we stopped at the
riverbeds along the Waimakariri River to take a few more pictures.
- Air Force Museum of New
The museum is located at Wigram, the RNZAF's first
operational base, in Christchurch. Visitors can discover New
Zealand’s military aviation story at the place where it all began.
I played the Mosquito Mission flight simulator (NZ$6 while the museum
admission is free) and crashed all the time. We also joined a free
"behind-the-scene" guided tour which was led by a very knowledgeable
volunteer (who was an ex-RNZAF pilot) to show the Reserve Collection
space and some other collections which are still under restoration.
We also learned that the RNZAF's air combat capability ended in 2001
with the disbanding of the A-4 Skyhawk squadrons and the cancellation of
an order of 28 F-16A/B Fighting Falcon aircraft. The RNZAF
has shrunk to a strength of around 51 aircraft in 2016, focusing on
maritime patrol and transport duties.
Although there are no modern
fighter jets in the museum, it is always an exciting feeling to be
surrounded by so many different airplanes.
- Honeyfields Farmstay
For our last night in New Zealand, I found a cool farmstay where it is a
small working farm with dozens of alpacas. The hosts Barbara and
Doug were very friendly and Barbara gave us an one-hour farm tour that
we could feed alpacas whenever we liked. They were so cute and we
were going to stay with them for a night :-)
- Willowbank Wildlife Reserve
& Ko Tāne
I booked a KoTāne
Māori Experience & Guided Kiwi Tour (started at 4:30PM) which included
an informative guided tour around the native area including kea, kiwi
etc. in the wildlife reserve, Māori Welcome, Interactive Māori Village,
Stage Performance, and Hāngī Dinner. Founded more than four
decades ago, Willowbank is a popular attraction in Christchurch with a
good combination of culture and conservation.
3/3 (Day 17) ...
- Honeyfields Farmstay
Our hostess Barbara came
by at 7AM to let us know it's the time and Woanyu got the honor to be
the first guest to feed an alpaca baby! After our own home-made
breakfast (with the fresh picked eggs from the farm), we had one last
chance to go around the farm to feed more alpacas.
Going Home ...
New Zealand (South Island alone) is a diversified place and is a paradise
for nature lovers. It's our first time drive on the left side (it's
left, right?); first time to take a Heli Hike (Woanyu's first time on a
helicopter); first time to walk on a glacier (actually two glaciers); first
time to catch our fish for dinner (actually we did not get any by
ourselves); first time to be under a waterfall on a boat (purest water);
first time to see glowworms (they do look like LED lights in the cave);
first time to be on a jetboat and on a Funyak (good combination); and first
time to see, touch, and feed alpacas (cutest animals on earth).
We were so glad that we had followed our trip plans almost flawless and all
the highlights we experienced were really world class highlights. It's
time to go home, and think about when we should come back again......
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