Saturday, April 19, 2008

Millford Sound

Sorry for the long hiatus. Work has been busy, and Rachel had me cleaning house at night in preparation of our first non-parent visitors. Laddy, Amy and Mark came up and spent the weekend with us. It was a blast. I'll blog on that visit later.

Back to New Zealand...

After visiting Deer Park Heights in the morning, Tim, Liz, Rachel and I flew to Millford Sound on a 9-passenger prop plane. The options were take a 45 minute flight on a plane the size of Rachel's Prelude, or drive 5 hours each way to see the sound. Many people, and we now agree, think that Millford Sound may be the most beautiful place they have ever seen.

Here is a shot that shows how small the inside of the plane is. The flight over was NOT smooth when we went over the last set of mountains. Tim had to pry my white knuckles from the seat in front of me once we landed. I WAS SCARED!!!

Takeoff... Notice that the engine sounds like we are flying in a 3-horsepower weedeater.

The scenery from the air.

This is the video of the landing at Millford Sound. The video cannot do it justice. We were surrounded by 8,000+ foot tall cliffs on 3 sides. We actually flew in at 12,000 feet and then circled inside the sound to drop altitude to allow this landing.

Once we landed, we took a cruise of the sound. This is a great shot of Tim on the back of the boat with a waterfall and the New Zealand flag in the background.

This is a shot of the girls from the back of the boat, with Millford Sound in the background. Millford Sound is actually not a "sound" but a "fiord". A "sound" is cut by a river, while a "fiord" is cut by a glacier. Millford Sound was actually cut by a glacier.

This is a video of a waterfall close up.

The boat captain told us he was going to get close to the waterfall. He was quite literal.

This is a video of one of the other waterfalls in the fiord.

The cruise took us all the way to where the fiord empties into the ocean. When we got within view of the ocean, a group of dolphins joined our boat. I was able to get a little footage of them.

Following the cruise, we took the 45 minute flight back to Queenstown. We actually landed on a grass runway. That was pretty cool. Luckily, the flight back was much smoother than the one over.

Below are several pictures from the flight and cruise. My favorite is the shot we got of the glacier lake on top of the mountain. It is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. You can click on the pictures to make them larger.

Also, there is a picture of several seals sunbathing on top of a large rock. I am interested in theories that any of you might have on how these seals got on top of the rock. Hint: It is not the tide, as the tide lines were evident on the rock and were much lower.

Reflections - Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs

I'm not sure I can really add much commentary... the sign says it all.

I wonder if this sign could pass the truth in advertising requirements in the United States? It sure passed the "funny enough to be in a picture" test.

Tim and Liz, this sign is for you.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Deer Park Heights

I will go ahead and warn the audience - this particular blog is going to be video intensive. On Thursday, we visited Deer Park Heights just outside of Queentown, and pictures just don't do it justice. It is essentially an animal park. You feed and pet the animals at your own risk (again, no lawsuits).

This first video is of an alpaca and some of the other animals that we first encountered. The alpacas would let you pet them as long as you were feeding them. You would not believe how soft alpaca fur is. The ducks move in for the food that hits the ground.

This little guy cracked us up. He kept sticking his head through the fence and doing this thing with his mouth to get people to feed him. He was quite entertaining.

This donkey looks like a prison inmate. He looked so pitiful, he garnered the sympathy of some of the people in our group.

No Liz. He is just a donkey. Don't kiss him!!!

The bobbing pig here was the funniest animal we saw all day. If you brought food close to him, he would open his mouth and bob his head back and forth in anticipation. We spent a good deal of time laughing at him.

As I introduce it in the video, this is a big red deer. I introduce it for my dad's sake, because these red deer were bigger than any deer I have seen in TN, IL or PA. As you can see, these deer will eat out of your hand. Wouldn't be very sporting to shoot a deer that walks right up to you anyway (Sorry Dad). Interestingly, there were deer farms all over the South Island of New Zealand. Apparently, venison is one of the largest exports of New Zealand next to sheep's wool.

Liz, Rachel and Tim petting a deer.

This video is titled "Running of the Goats". We pulled into an area where several goats were standing on an embankment watching us. Liz rattled the food can, and these goats started running at us from all directions. It was hilarious. They came from everywhere.

I introduce you to Liz Green Nagy, the Goat Whisperer. She has quite a raport with these goats. Actually, I guess it was the can of food that she was holding. These goats are not shy.

In case you were wondering, this is a Korean Prison on the top of Deer Park Heights. Apparently, they shot a movie here in the 1980's that had a Korean Prison. For whatever reason, they decided to leave it standing. So, you can travel to Queenstown, NZ to see all of the sites where The Lord of the Rings Trilogy was shot, and you can go to the top of Deer Park Heights and visit the Korean Prison.

Later in our adventure, we rattled the bucket again. This time, a llama galloped down the hill for some food.

This llama became quite enamored with Rachel (or the food she was carrying). Someone at the first stop told us that llamas will spit if they become upset. After that, Rachel no longer cared to be too close to the llamas. She was trying to get away from this one once she ran out of food, because she was afraid it would be mad at her.

This is a video of an absolutely enormous buck, and a tour bus driver feeding him. Apparently, the bus driver is also Steve Irwin reincarnated because he gave Liz all sorts of rude instructions about how she shouldn't feed the deer... right after he did it. He must have completed some classes at Deer Feeding school or something. He obviously did not see the spell that Liz cast on those goats earlier.

This is a beautiful shot of 2 beautiful bucks standing above us. They really were spectacular animals. If I ever saw one of these bucks while hunting, I think I would be too much in awe to muster a shot.

On the way down the mountain, we encountered some coos (Scottish for cows). We couldn't ever get them to lift their heads from grazing to get a better shot. In addition to these guys, we saw some American bison and a yak on the way up.

This video gives shows the view from the top of Deer Park Heights. That is Queenstown below. What an amazing view. The part in the second Lord of the Rings where the Ranger is pulled over the cliff by the Orks was filmed at this location.

Tim and I at the top of Deer Park Heights.

I had to post the picture of the mountain across from us, with the windey road. It reminded me of a bigger Lombardi St. (San Fransisco).

A beautiful shot of the valley and river.

A view from the top.

This is the car that carried us around the South Island of New Zealand. It was a reliable little thing and had plenty of leg room (Hyundai really makes a good product these days).

I conclude this blog with a shot of Queenstown from the top of Deer Park Heights. It was an AWESOME DAY... and it wasn't even lunch time yet.

REFLECTIONS - Poo Addendum

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you will remember my Reflection on Australians and their marketing abilities of all things poo. Chick poo, cow poo, horse poo and alpaca poo are all actively traded on the spot market in Australia. It appears from the local Queenstown newspaper that New Zelanders have some "poo problems". Tim and I shot this photo of the paper while sipping our Starbucks the morning we left Queenstown.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Jet Boating

This is our crew on Wednesday morning at the Dart River, where we took a 3 hour jet boat tour.

This is a jet boat. It will go approximately 60 mph on as little as 4 inches of water depth. New Zealanders use it to take Australian and American tourists on tours of their glacial rivers.

This is Brendon (New Zealanders pronounce it "Brindun"). Brendon drives jet boats for a living. Brendon is the product of a society with very few frivolous lawsuits (see "Reflections"). He drives jet boats extremely fast and close to large stationary objects that would kill everyone in his boat, if he accidentally struck one.

This is a picture of the hillside along the Dart River. It was really pretty. I show this picture because it really shows how massive the mountains are. If you click on the picture to maximize it on your screen, you will see tiny white dots (for those, like my parents, who may have marginal eye sight, take my word for it, there are tiny white dots). These tiny white dots are sheep.

This is a picture of Rachel on a jet boat. We will refer to this as the "Before" picture.

This is the "After" picture. Did I mention that Brendon would periodically spin the jet boat, wetting the people on the ends of the back row?

It's ALL good!

This is a video that Tim shot on the jet boat.

Here are some more pictures of the scenery that we saw while out on the jet boat.

The picture below is a great shot of the lake that the Dart River runs into. Since it was sunny on our way back to Queenstown, the water was beautiful.

REFLECTIONS - My Favorite Thing About NZ

I have many "favorites" regarding New Zealand. The scenery, the weather, the people are all great. However, my favorite thing about New Zealand is its legal system, or should I say lack of one. Don't get me wrong... some of my best friends are lawyers. Some of them even read this blog (good time for a DISCLAIMER: the words written here are only opinion and are written mostly for entertainment purposes. Therefore, they should not be construed as the foundation for libel or slander).

We took part in many, many activities during this part of the trip (you will read about them in future blogs), and I only signed one waiver or legal document. Had we been in the United States, we would have been forced to sign 600 pages of paperwork and pay 35% higher prices to cover the associated attorney fees.

Someone (I think it was Tim) told us the story of a ski resort in NZ, which had a sign posted at the top of one of its double-black diamond runs - "This course for Experts only. If you are not an expert skier, you will get hurt. Attention Americans, you cannot sue us; it will be your own fault."

To demonstrate what I am talking about, I have 2 videos below where Brendon, the "Bo Duke" of jet boat driving runs the old jet boat right up next to a large boulder. If Rachel would have stuck her arm out of the right side of the boat, I would have a one-armed wife.