A Travellerspoint blog

September 2017

Doubtful Sound, NZ


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Doubtful Sound / Patea is a very large and naturally imposing fiord in Fiordland National Park, in the far south west of New Zealand. It is located in the same region as the smaller but more famous and accessible Milford Sound. It took second place after Milford Sound as New Zealand's most famous tourism destination. It was actually closer to us than Milford, plus it is massively larger, so we chose it as our major excursion in NZ.

Doubtful Sound

Annual rainfall there is measured in meters so any sun at all is rare and we had relatively good weather for our trip. Still, it is so remote that boat cruises must operate out of the small town of Manapouri. You first take a boat across Lake Manapouri and then a bus on the gravel road across Wilmot Pass to the Sound, but first you have to drive 2 hours to Manapouri... it took a total 6 hours on a bus and 5 hours on two different boats to reach it.

The actual tour catamaran held 200 people but the captain was able to maneuver it near penguins, fur seals, and under a cliff side waterfall so guests could sample the pristine water of the region (they said it makes you 10 years younger). The highlight was when they cut the engines and everyone stood in total silence listening to the majesty of the Sound.

Like the Tanna volcano it was a unique experience that I might not repeat due to its remoteness.

Bus up the remote track to the final boat

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The tour catamaran

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The main salon

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Power and speed needed to get to the Sound's opening at the Tasman Sea

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Jan's cup is the blue arm center right

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The majesty of the Sound

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Posted by lhuff35204 23:46 Archived in New Zealand Comments (3)

Queenstown, NZ


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Queenstown is a vibrant tourist area, but quite remote.

Mount Cook from our plane

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View from our hotel room.

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Lake Wakatipu with a length of 80 kilometres (50 mi), it is New Zealand's longest lake. Jan actually drove this boat.

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Hotel dining room

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Lake Wakatipu catamaran

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Smooth sailing

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The captain explaining what direction

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The Queenstown Gardens, located next to the town of Queenstown, New Zealand is a botanical garden which contains exotic and native trees and plants as well as a large pond and a range of facilities.

The heritage trees planted in 1867 include
Black Oak (Quercus velutina)
Red Oak (Quercus rubra)
Grand Fir (Abies grandis)
Algerian Fir (Abies nordmanniana)
Monkey Puzzle (Araucaria araucana)
Western Hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla)
Wellingtonia (Sequoiadendron giganteum)

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View of Queenstown from the gardens

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Brunch at Pier 19

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Posted by lhuff35204 03:15 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Wellington NZ


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Arrived via Auckland yesterday after some flight mix ups (I booked the wrong date). NZ has the best customs system... if you hold a UK, NZ, US or AU passport you just scan your passport at a kiosk, get an electronic visa, and walk out. The weather is terrible here in Wellington with wind and rain all day. We had dinner on Cuba St last night (it's like Pearl Street in Boulder, CO on steroids) and today we're holed up in our apartment waiting for things to improve. Jan has been fighting a cold since Tanna and this is a good chance to do some laundry, in a real washer, and rest before heading to the south island.

We decided not to risk Bali with the impending eruption of Mt Agung, but an alternative itinerary is proving difficult. You simply cannot go west from Australia without changing planes in Bali first. We're going to wait as long as we can and hope the airlines reroute, so for now we don't know where to after Australia.
Photos below show the view from our kitchenette's window through the rainy window. The second one actually shows the harbor but it's completely obscured by the clouds.

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Posted by lhuff35204 21:47 Archived in New Zealand Comments (3)

Noumea, New Caledonia

Volcano page updated too


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Flew into Noumea 2 nights ago. It's expensive here and the town could be like anywhere in France. We went snorkeling on Duck Island off the coast yesterday (fish and coral were 9 out of 10 but the ocean is colder) and we wandered around town today. We decided to skip Auckland, NZ due to a fuel disruption at the airport and switched our flight to Wellington. We're also looking at Bali alternatives due to the Mt. Agung volcano eruption warnings. The last time it erupted 1000 people were killed and the Denpasar airport was closed for a week. If it happenes it could be similar in size to Mt. St. Helens (you wouldn't want be viewing it from the crater's edge).large_IMG_2066.jpglarge_IMG_2062.jpglarge_IMG_2059.jpglarge_90_IMG_2055.jpglarge_IMG_2047.jpglarge_IMG_2039.jpglarge_IMG_2036.jpglarge_IMG_2035.jpglarge_90_IMG_2026.jpg

Posted by lhuff35204 20:07 Archived in New Caledonia Comments (2)

Tanna island

Mt Yasur volcano


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Arrived Tanna, leaving for the volcano now.

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There are lots of videos of Mount Yasur on You Tube but nothing can match being there in person. We drove 1 1/2 hours by 4x4 and climbed up the 300 meter crater to look down into the 4 active volcanic vents. The vents erupt every 5 minutes, with a major explosion every 20 minutes or so. The major blasts are hard to capture unless you record your entire time (2+ hours) standing on a knife edge cinder cone that drops 300 meters on both sides; one side into the caldera and the other down to the ash plain below. The guide drew a line in the ash with his foot (that is your guard rail) and his advice was "don't run" when there's an explosion. That was important advice because you are comfortably watching the constant small eruptions, like in the video we recorded below. Then suddenly there is a deafening explosion, percussion that shakes the ground beneath you, and lava being thrown high above you. Jan's first reaction was to crouch down, but she did not run and risk falling off the edge. It was quite humbling to experience such a powerful act of nature. After many weeks (months?) of concern and trepidation (outright terror) I, Jan, will admit that it was a very exhilarating once-in-a-lifetime event that I won't soon forget.

If you can't see the embed, here is a link.

https://youtu.be/xZZnHCbKshg

If you want to see the whole experience here is a Youtube video shot from the "safe area" (we were briefed on this as a place of refuge, but we moved on to the higher exposed ground above). And here is a video-be patient-of the most exposed area that we did not approach because of fumes Youtube

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We climbed Mt. Yasur, visited a local village and a market, swam to the Blue Cave, snorkeled turtle reef, stayed at White Grass resort.
Most of the natives had colds, I assume from meeting us tourists. Tanna and Port-Villa suffered a direct hit from Cyclone Pam in 2015

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Posted by lhuff35204 22:30 Archived in Vanuatu Comments (2)

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