Postcard from Fiordland

On the road to Milford Sound, Eglinton Valley, Te Anau, Southland, New Zealand.

The locals were relieved when we said that we were booked on a tour to Milford Sound. They said that we should leave the driving to someone else, too many tourists had died while gawking at the scenery on the narrow winding road.

Fiordland National Park, Southland, New Zealand.

We had booked ourselves on a Juicy Zest (yes, that’s the company name!) small group bus and boat tour of Milford Sound in Fiordland National Park. However, it was starting to rain when the bus picked us up. You know, one of those days that make you want to stay in bed with a book and mug of hot chocolate. We were afraid that the rain would obscure all of the views. After all, Milford Sound gets 21 feet (yes, feet!) of rain per year. I guess we should have known….

Mirror Lakes, Fiordland National Park, Southland, New Zealand.

So, we got on the bus thinking “what a waste of money” until our tour guide and driver, Simon, said “what a great day, we are going to see waterfalls that many people never see and the forest will be glowing in the muted light.” We liked him immediately and found that his knowledge of the flora, fauna, and local culture was extensive.

The Chasm, Fiordland National Park, Southland, New Zealand.
A walk in the rain forest, Fiordland National Park, Southland, New Zealand.

We went on short hikes in the rain with our rain coats and big umbrellas, stopped at all of the view points, and were gobsmacked by the spectacular waterfalls cascading down the tall vertical cliffs.

Waterfalls pour into Milford Sound by the hundreds when it’s raining.
Milford Sound, Fiordland National Park, Southland, New Zealand.
Ferns, New Zealand’s national symbol, Fiordland National Park, Southland, New Zealand.

And then, we got to the sound. The boat ride was foggy, moody, and just as spectacular as the canyons we drove through to get there.

Milford Sound, Fiordland National Park, Southland, New Zealand.

We were treated to sightings of penguins and fur seals.

Tawaki (Fiordland Crested Penguin), Milford Sound, Fiordland National Park, Southland, New Zealand.
New Zealand fur seal (or long-nose fur seal), Milford Sound, Fiordland National Park, Southland, New Zealand.

The rain stopped about the time we were dropped off at our hotel, but we really didn’t care. It had been a spectacular day.

Waterfalls cascade into the deep gorges of Fiordland National Park, Southland, New Zealand
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Postcard from Southland

Waipapa Point Lighthouse near Invercargill, Southland, New Zealand.

It’s pretty easy to get lost here. Not in the physical way where you wander around not knowing where you are, but in a emotional or metaphorical way. It’s easy to get lost in the green of the landscapes, in the easy manner of it’s people, and in the grand panoramas of the coastlines.

Steampunk HQ and museum in Oamaru, Otago, New Zealand.

Southland is the southern most region of the South Island of New Zealand. We’ve traveled through the Canterbury and Otago regions to get to Southland and have been loosing ourselves in the beautiful scenery of the eastern and southern coasts, visiting the cities of Dunedin, Invercargill, Te Anau, and others along the way.

It is a beautiful country that is hard to describe. So, here’s some selected images that illustrate what we’ve been seeing.

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Postcard from Christchurch

Anyone can sit and play.

New Zealand isn’t far from Australia, but when you get here it feels like it is a world away. It’s a little like we’ve been magically transported to home to the Northwest. It’s cooler, there’s rain, it’s green, and there are trees here in Christchurch. And it’s spring!

Spring blossoms in Christchurch.

Christchurch may be the most resilient town in the world. Two earthquakes, a magnitude 7.1 in September 2010 and a 6.3 five months later killed 168 people and leveled whole blocks in the downtown core. Nearly 11,000 people chose to leave Christchurch for good. Yet, there are signs of revival all over the downtown area where whole blocks have been restored or rebuilt.

Shops and a trolley line along New Regent Street.
The Christchurch Transitional Cathedral. Interim cathedral, constructed from cardboard to replace the old cathedral (built between 1864 and 1904) which was severely damaged in the 2011 earthquake.

There are artworks throughout the downtown core that include sculptures honoring the indigenous Maori people.

Maori Pouwhenua (totem pole) in a park along the Avon River in downtown Christchurch.
Random artwork in Christchurch.
Green hills around Christchurch.
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Last Postcard from Oz

It’s possible that Big Foot and the Lock Ness monster don’t actually exist because surely someone with a cell phone would have made a selfie with them by now…. But I digress… Everywhere you look, someone is taking a photo with their cell phone, a photo that probably will be stored on the phone and never seen. That’s the inspiration for this blog.

For our last Postcard from Oz, we’ve selected a few photos from our cell phone. They are odds and ends from our six weeks trekking around the country and are not in any particular order. Take a look at the caption to see what they are about.

On to Christchurch, New Zealand!

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Post Card from the West Coast of Oz*

There are a wide variety of things to see along the northwestern coast of Oz. Many of them are touristy, while others are a little off the beaten track. Here are some images from the places and things we enjoyed the most. All of the images were shot in the state of Western Australia.

*By the way, Australians love to shorten the names of places, so it only stands to reason that Australia = Aussie = Aus = Oz.

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Post Card from the Indian Ocean

The Indian Ocean near Broome, Western Australia.

The long drive over the Road From Hell (see previous post…) ended in Broome, Western Australia, on the Indian Ocean. One of our goals was to see the Indian Ocean and tour the coastline.

The Royal Flying Doctor Service uses straight sections of the highway as airstrips for their air ambulances. The distances are too great to use helicopters.

It’s almost 1,500 miles on the coastal route from Broome to Perth, about 100 miles further then driving I-5 from Canada to Mexico. We visited Port Hedland, Dampier, Exmouth, and Denham/Monkey Mia. Some are industrial towns; others, tourism is their industry. Remember all that red rock and soil? This part of Australia is rich in iron ore which is shipped to regional countries like India and China.

Iron ore being trucked to port. Note the red dirt on the trailers. And yes, that truck has four trailers.
They can be up to 175 feet long…

We visited beaches that were all shells without sand and beautiful sand beaches too.

A beach of shells
From the top of a dune near Exmouth, Western Australia.
Sunset on tide flats near Dampier, Western Australia.
The locals call the reflection “staircase to the moon”.
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Post Card from The Road From Hell…

Somewhere along the road to hell…

Hour after hour, we drove across a flat featureless landscape, sometimes cresting a low hill only to see the same featureless landscape. When we stopped to change drivers or have a cuppa, we stayed in the RV. It was 107 degrees out and felt like we were trying to breath with our heads in an oven. If we did step outside, we were besieged by tenacious, sticky flies that tried to crawl in our nose, mouth, eyes, and ears.

That’s 175-1/2 feet. The road trains were huge!

One day, we drove to a road house with a campground only to find that a recent bush fire had nearly closed the establishment. There was no shade in the campground, only heat. We drove on looking for something better, but it’s a long way to the next roadhouse.

Agile Wallaby outside our RV.

It took four days to drive from Darwin to Broome and it felt like we were truly driving the road from hell. But, there was some interesting flora and fauna along the journey.

Flying foxes (bats). About 1-1/2 feet from top of foot to bottom of head.
Boab tree.
Fresh water crocodile.
Brolga, spooked before we could get a good shot.
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