Monday, January 09, 2006

We arrived in Queenstown about 2 hours ago after a very long, but enjoyable day....and the weather was fantastic, which made it so much better. We got on the road at 7.45am, our first stop was Lake Matheson, which is a glacial created lake surrounded by ancient rainforest, we took a few photos there, and then were on our way again. Then we stopped at Knights Point lookout, the view there was fantastic, the Tasman sea was so beautiful and blue. There was supposed to be a colony of seals on some of the rocks there, but unfortunately we didn't see any. Then is was onto the Haast pass (which is named after an Austrian explorer). The roads are really windy and steep, the whole way from Franz Josef we were driving alongside the Southern Alps so the views were fantastic, some of the mountains even had snowfall on them. The Southern Alps are apparently as big in volume as the Austrian and Swiss Alps combined! Driving along the west coast has really made me miss Germany and Austria, all those mountains and the snow :-( Anyway, next stop was a 28m high waterfall called Thunder Creek falls, these flow into the Haast river, then it was onto Makarora for a quick lunch stop, there wasn't really much there, but we saw a few helicoptors and a plane land from doing their scenic flights.
After lunch we carried on and had a stop at Lake Hawea which was beautifully blue (it's 384m deep) and very, very big, it reminded me of lake Garda in Italy, except Lake Garda isn't as blue. After that, we drove alongside Lake Wanaka, which again is stunning (it's 311m deep and 193 sq km...I did my homework today didn't I!!). When we got to Wanaka we had another stop for photo opps, it is a lovely town, I would love to go back and stay there at some point, lots of lovely shops... of course the lake with the backdrop of the mountains....gorgeous! Again it reminded me of one of the little towns along Lake Garda (this trip is really making me homesick for Europe!) Apparently Shania Twain has a holiday home there (another useful bit of information!) anyway, unfortunately we only had a short stop there, then it was on to Queenstown. We stopped off to see the famous AJ Hackett bungee jump suspension bridge....we didn't go on, but hung around and watched some people jump...I tell you, I don't know how they do it, they all seemed so calm, and none of them hesitated...I was scared just being on the viewing platform!!
On the way to Queenstown we drove past the 45th parallel (it's an imaginary line, which I think marks halfway between the North Pole and the Equator...I had my headphones on at the time, so missed half of what the bus driver said!) Anyway, so we arrived here, had a quick tikky tour (thats what the kiwis call it) around town, then checked into the hostel. It's actually very nice, we have a lovely view of the lake here. We dropped off our stuff, booked a tour to Milford Sound for Wednesday, had a look around town, then bought a voucher for the gondala ride and 5 rides on the Luge (some sort of thing you sit on and you go whizzing down the hill). We've just been out for a Thai meal, and I think we'll be shortly going to bed...we're both shattered as it's been a really long day, almost 12 hours of sitting in a bus and sightseeing. But we've had a great day, the scenery is so's definitely more beautiful the further south you drive.

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