Category: General
Posted by: The Agnew Family
We left the hotel for the airport at 3:30 am New Zealand time (a 2 minute drive) and arrived at Toronto airport at 6:50 pm Toronto time just over 33 hours later. And we have the 2 1/2 hour drive home.

The airport opened at 3:30 am but security didn't open to 4:30 am. It's pretty quiet when you get to your gate right after security opens.

It was raining when we left New Zealand so no "good-bye New Zealand" photos. The flight was nice and uneventful.

Our layover at Sydney airport was suppose to be 4 hours. It quickly turned into 6 hours when the waiting passengers were informed about a "mechanical problem" with the airplane.

It had been raining when we landed in Australia but by time flew out the rain had stopped though it was still overcast. Good-bye Australia!

After we had been flying for a few hours, a flight attendant made an announcement asking if a doctor was on board the plane would they please let a flight attendant know. Later we were asked if anyone had a glucometer and certain meds. When you are flying over a lot of water you start to wonder where the plane could land if the ill person needed more help than a doctor on an airplane could give them. Luckily, the doctor managed and paramedics were waiting for us in Vancouver. This unfortunately caused further delays as medical equipment needed to be refilled or replaced.

When we finally boarded the plane our ETA in Toronto was 2:50 minutes past our original ETA.

Leaving Vancouver we saw the top of a mountain poking through the clouds.

The pilot really put the pedal to the metal or found a tail wind getting us to Toronto 15 minutes before our updated ETA. On the upside we missed rush hour.

I called my brother when we landed in Toronto knowing that we would be outside waiting for him when he arrived a half hour later. When we walked to the designated "pick up" spot we didn't see anyone being picked up but rather cars stopped and waiting. Due to these inconsiderate people, cars, like my brothers, were forced to double park so they could pick up people resulting in a huge traffic mess.

My second pet peeve actually occurred a couple of days ago. For some reason Chinese people think it's a good idea to stand in the middle of a highway and take a photo of someone doing the "jump pose" in front of a distant mountain ignoring oncoming traffic. When you see it the first time you just think "stupid people" but when it occurs a number of times you really start to wonder what people are thinking.

When you've been on airplanes for more hours than you want to imagine you look for things to amuse you. The frost on the outside of the window amused us for several minutes.

This ends our New Zealand adventure. Now I can start planning the next trip!!!!
Category: General
Posted by: The Agnew Family
We have another longish drive ahead of us --- 5 1/2 hours as we decided to drive the longer scenic route. What makes it long is the stops we'll do along the way.

This morning we woke up to a view that is all a lot of visitors get to see at Mount Cook ---- Mount Cook in the clouds. We were so lucky to have to sunny days here.

On the drive out of Mount Cook we stopped at the same view point did on the drive in and took a similar photo. Definitely no top of Mount Cook and definitely not as good of a photo.

Another great view on the today's drive.

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The first church is in Lake Tekapo and it has an amazing view. The second church is in Burkes Pass village.

This is a view from the waterfront by the church and can be seen from inside the church.

Ed was able to take a few photos while I took my turn driving today (ignore the marks due to shooting through a window).

Both of us are fascinated by the hedges. Sometimes the approximately 25 foot hedges would be near a building, sometimes they would just be in a field, sometimes you could see under the hedge, sometimes the hedge would grow to the ground. The top was cut flat and the sides squared up.

In larger towns and cities the bridges were two lanes but in smaller towns and on less busy roads one lane bridges were a lot more common. Before you drive onto the bridge you are suppose to check and ensure the way is clear but sometimes on the longer bridges that is hard to do so the build a "pull out" for passing.

View of the Rakaia River.

We've arrived in Christchurch and have a hotel near the airport, really near the airport. 700 metres, about a 5 minutes walk. Our flight tomorrow leaves at 6:30 am. If we arrive 3 hours ahead we'll get there just as they are unlocking the doors to the terminal. I think we're going to live dangerously and arrive around 3:45am or maybe even 4:00am. I can't believe these times. The other flight we had a choice on was at 6:15am so maybe 6:30am isn't so bad. We don't have to walk to the airport as the hotel has an on demand shuttle. I just have to sleep walk Ed to the lobby, push him on the shuttle, push him off the shuttle and then a bit more sleep walking. Think I'll wake him up in Sydney.
Category: General
Posted by: The Agnew Family
It was really hard choosing photos for todayís blog. Here we are in the beautiful Southern Alps, the sun is shining, the temperature is perfect for hiking and we are hiking a few of the trails in Mount Cook National Park.

When we checked in yesterday the woman at the front desk warned us that a sunny day means busy trails so I got Ed up a little early today to beat the rush. We drove to Hooker Valley Trail which is the most popular day hike trail in the park.

The trail crosses rivers in three places which means three swing bridges (and six crossings as we come back along the same trail) --- not the best for someone with a fear of heights. Looking straight ahead and singing a little song to myself got me across.

We passed Mueller Lake.

The trail eventually followed the Hooker River to Hooker Lake which is fed by the Hooker Glacier which is one of several glaciers on the slopes of Mount Cook.

Several icebergs had calved off of the glacier and were slowly melting in the milky, silt filled Hooker Lake. The crystal clear blue glacier water occurs once the sediment in the water has settled. The snow covered mountain is Mount Cook.

Itís actually quite hard to see a glacier at the water level because of all the silt and rocks on top of it. The glacier is almost in the middle of the photo --- itís the blue layer covered in black rocks and dirt.

There were also great views walking back to the parking lot.

Another area of the park we wanted to see was the Blue Lakes and the Tasman Glacier.

The blue lakes arenít blue any more. Originally the Tasman Glacier fed the Blue Lakes but now that the Glacier has receded only rainwater fills the Blue Lakes resulting in warmer lakes and algae that now makes the lakes look green.

One of the icebergs calved from the Tasman Glacier floating in Terminal Lake.

We did one last small hike near the motel looking for a geocache. The cache was at a view point looking out at Mount Cook.

2018/02/23: Drive to Mount Cook

Category: General
Posted by: The Agnew Family
Mount Cook is the highest peak in New Zealand and we saw the top of it when we were at Fox (near Franz Josef). This time we are approaching it from the east coast and will stay at Mount Cook Village.

Nice change in the weather, the sun has come out again and the temperature has risen --- summer's back.

Moeraki Boulders are large spherical boulders on one section of beach. The boulders are buried in the sand cliffs and appear as the cliff is eroded.

We stopped to look at another beach and we saw a flock of sheep grazing in a fenced off area and one sheep outside the fence. Some one must have called them because all of a sudden the sheep started moving quickly toward the farm. The one on the outside of the fence dove for the "hole" and squeezed through.

When the GPS told us to turn off the main highway early, we were happy to follow. The route took us down some back roads and past beautiful sand cliffs.

The altered route also took us past Elephant Rocks located on a private farm near Duntroon. They are a collection of large weathered limestone rocks.


You have to watch where walk as the field is used for sheep grazing.

The route followed a river that was dammed in several spots in order to produce hydro electric power. Here's photos of a couple of the dams.


As we drove north towards Mount Cook we kept coming across large groups of bikers. Turns out they were on the last day of a three day charity bicycle ride that raised over a hundred thousand dollars. We were just happy they were headed south.

A couple of shots of mountains as we approach Mount Cook.

Mount Cook.


Pretty much the view from our motel room.

2018/02/22: Dunedin

Category: General
Posted by: The Agnew Family
We are booked on a tour this afternoon, so this morning we drove to downtown Dunedin. One of the big tourist attractions is the railway station.

Yup, this is the railway station. Dunedinís bluestone railway station was built between 1903 and 1906.

And this is the inside. It features mosaic tile floors and stained-glass windows.

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Dunedin was established by Scottish Presbyterianís but somehow the Church of Englandís St. Paul Cathedral (Anglican) gets the prime spot in the Octagon, the centre of Dunedin. The church seems a little off when you go inside. Itís explained by the fact the main part of the church was completed in 1919 and the sanctuary was completed in a more modern style in 1971.

There are quite a few beautiful old building in the downtown area.

The tour included a bus ride out onto the Otago Peninsula, a visit to the Penguin Place, a wildlife cruise and boat trip back to Dunedin.

At the Penguin Place we saw a number of Yellow Eyed Penguins receiving extra care before they are released into the wild. We took a walk out to the Penguin nesting area where we saw a number of nesting boxes with Blue Penguins inside --- we saw feet and tummies and a male Yellow Eyed Penguin who was almost finished molting. There were also several fur seals sleeping on the cliff edge.

The wildlife cruise took place off of Wellers Rock in Otago Harbour. We saw Oystercatchers, Black Swans, gulls, Shags, Fur Seals, Sea Lions, Royal Spoonbills and Northern Royal Albatross. The main focus was on the Albatross. The Northern Royal Albatross only breed on islands in New Zealand waters and this is the only colony on mainland. The birds have a 3 metre wing span, rarely flap their wings as they soar on air currents. The albatross only return to land every 2 years to breed spending the rest of the time as sea.


The naturalists said that these were "teenagers practicing courting".



The colony can be found below and to the left of the lighthouse.

There was a Sea Lion swimming near the seal colony waiting for a baby seal to come into the water. It looks like this seal is yelling at the Sea Lion.

The seal on the is a one month old baby.

A colony of Stewart Island Shags (Cormorant).

One of the beautiful views on the way to the dock in Dunedin.
Category: General
Posted by: The Agnew Family
Our itinerary indicated that the drive from Te Anau to Dunedin (west coast to east coast) would take about 4 hours. We opted for the scenic road that more or less followed the coast (about 6 hours). Ten hours later we arrived at our motel. Now we did stop a few times but not as much as we would have liked. In reprospect we should have planned a 2 night stay in the Catlins area.

Lots of rain today. First stop was this wood suspension bridge in Clifden.


Built in 1899, it spans the Waiau River and is 111.5 m long. The bridge suffered damage in a 2009 earthquake. It was repaired and reopened to pedestrians in 2013.

One of several beaches we stopped at today.

Good timing. Monkey Island is only accessible during a low tide.

Interesting motor home. Not sure if the top slies down or if it's driven as is.

A view taken from the car window as we drove. The scenery was very nice for most of the drive so we felt it was worth the extra time.

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McLean Falls.

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The hike into the falls is through a coastal rainforest. Most of the trees had moss or other plants growing on them, except for this one type of tree that looks like it sheds it's bark.


A scenic view stop --- one direction was sheep and a lone cow, the other was a view of a beach.
Category: General
Posted by: The Agnew Family
In case anyone heard about the cyclone that hit New Zealand, we were far away --- the storm cause some problems at the north end of the South Island while we were at the south end of the South Island.

Today was another "vast quantity of photographs" day. I've tried to keep the number of photos down but we saw so much that was so beautiful and then there's some with stories attached.

For a lot of people Milford Sound is the reason to go to New Zealand. After reading guide books and reviews, Doubtful Sound seems to be pulling ahead due to it's remoteness. We decided to go to both --- well because why not?

Ed's reaction to Milford Sound is that it is very busy and very commercialized. The boat terminal had the feeling of being in a large transportaion hub with "gates". The bus parking lot is huge. When we arrived for our morning boat tour it only had 2 vehicles in it. After our tour it was overflowing with at least 75 tour buses. Imagine all the people....

Now our story,

On the drive to Milford Sound you go through the 1.2 km Homer Tunnel with a 1:10 gradient down to the western portal. As I haven't experienced very many tunnels with slopes, it felt a little weird.

A view from the shore line with the tide out.

A slight different angle than the previous photo but now the tide is in.

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I think the 1st one is a Pied Shag (I'll have to spend more time researching), the 2nd one is a White Herron (or as we know them an Egret).

Milford Sound is a shorter and narrower fiord than Doubtful Sound, which makes the experience very different. I loved both cruises and was very happy that we had decided to do both.

Both sounds have a lot of waterfalls depending on the rainfall. At Milford Sound there a few more permanent waterfalls due to glaciers. In fact one of the waterfalls provides all of the drinking water used at the terminal and on the ships as well as generates the electricity required to run the terminal building. Milford Sound receives around 9 metres of rainfall annually. The fresh water sits on top of the salt water making a unique aquatitic environment.

A few photos of Milford Sound


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We reached the Tasman Sea. If we kept going the first land we would reach would be South America.

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We didn't see a lot of wildlife but we did manage to see some New Zealand Fur Seals, some dolphins too far behind the ship to go back to see them and an Albatross at the Tasman Sea.

I think this is Mt Tutoko glacier.

Bowen Falls framed with the boom. Our cruise was on a ship that is also used for overnight sailings that has a motor and a sail.

Back on the road to Te Anau there are more great views.



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On a nature trail we saw trees just covered in moss, I've never seen live trees covered so totally. I guess this is also the result of the 9 metres of rain in a year.
Category: General
Posted by: The Agnew Family
When we were planning our trip to New Zealand we knew that one of the highlights of the trip would be the cruise on Doubtful Sound. Well today was it, and yes it was one of the highlights of the trip. Originally we had been hoping for a sunny day then we were told that the sound is actually more beautiful on rainy days. Almost all of the waterfalls only exist when it rains --- so no rain no waterfalls. So now we want rain and sun ---- just a little confused. So what weather did we get? It poured rain during the night and was overcast with bits of rain and eventually just a little sun, well maybe more like brightening.

The day was actually made up of five parts ---- a cruise across Lake Manapouri, a bus ride over Wilmot Pass to Doubtful Sound, the cruise on Doubtful Sound, a bus ride back to Lake Manapouri and finally a cruise across Lake Manapouri back to where we started.

Looking back across Lake Manapouri. Not a lot of colour in the photo but I like all the layering of the mountains.

The bus driver stopped a few times so we could get a good look at some of the beautiful sites along the road. The road was built to bring building supplies in for the power station when it was built in the 1960s.

Another beautiful view along the road.

The waves are from our boat.

There were a few pleasure crafts in the sound.

The boat cruised to the end of the sound reaching the Tasman Sea.

An albatros gave us a show and flew around the boat.

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The sides of the sound are very straight even under the water and the water is deep right up to the walls, so the boat was able to nose itself under the waterfall. The crew gave out cups so you could catch the water.

A couple more shots of the sound.


Back at Lake Manapouri we see the water intake for the power station. You don't see any buildings as the power station was built underground. The story is very interesting so just google Manapouri Power Station if you want to know more about it.

Almost back to the dock where we started the day.

2018/02/18: Off to Fiordland

Category: General
Posted by: The Agnew Family
Ever since Ed watched a video of a commercial pilot flying through a cloud bank and landing at Queestown airport, Ed has wanted to see the airport. This morning as we were driving out of town, we came upon the airport. Standing at the end of the runway Ed saw a plane take off and

another plane land. These pilots were lucky as they had clear conditions.

Highway 6 follows Lake Wakatipu, which is a beautiful drive.

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My nature shots for today. I think the red berry like things are some type of apple.

At the bottom end of Lake Wakatipu.

Our itinerary suggested stopping at Kingston to see the steam engine. Our timing was good, we arrived shortly before the steam engine was take for a short spin.

Another scenic view as we continue our drive to Te Anau and Fiordland.

After settling in at our motel in Te Anau we went for a walk along Lake Te Anau.

It was mostly sunny along the walkway but we did notice what looked like rain on the other side of the lake.

Along the path we came across a bird sanctuary. The birds at the sanctuary are native to this area and have all been injured. This is a Takahe.

Manapōuri Power Station is an underground hydroelectric power station on the western arm of Lake Manapouri in Fiordland National Park. Water from Lake Te Anau and Lake Manpouri feed the power station. This is the control gate between the two lakes.
Category: General
Posted by: The Agnew Family
When I awoke this morning it was pouring rain. As we had no concrete plans for today, sleeping in was a welcome option. Happily by 10:30 the rain had stop, the sky was clearing and we were on the way to the gondola. Our motel is in a great location ---- walking distance to a supermarket, downtown, the harbour and the gondola. This is particularly important as February 16th was Chinese New Year ensuring that the town is full of tourists especially Chinese ones and every parking place is full.

I was hanging on tightly but I survived and made it to the top of the hill.

Looking down on Queenstown.

We started following a hiking trail and were rewarded with some amazing views.

There were a few goats wandering on the hill.

After an hour and a half of going up (a little bit of flat but no downs) we reached the saddle. This is whats on the other side of the hill.

We haven't seen a lot of wildfloweers.

Sitting on a bench at the saddle looking back at Lake Wakatipu. We started the last hour of the climb to Ben Lommand but after 15 minutes Ed called "uncle". He wanted to head back to the cafe at the top of the hill and have a beer. I would have pushed on but given that Ed is not totally over his cold I agreed to heading for a beer. The Heinekens (brewed in Auckland) hit the spot.

Another great view on the way down.

We tried to take a selfie before we headed down on the gondola. It is painful for one fellow to watch so he offered to take a photo of us. He did a great job.

Almost at the bottom.

The Gondola --- it felt a lot steeper than it looks.

The TSS Earnslaw on it's way back from a cruise of lake Wakatipu.

There's some extra photos on todays blog as there was a request for some photos of Queenstown.

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Pedroís House of Lamb is a take-away restaurant not far from our motel. They have one item on the menu ďA whole lamb shoulder slow roasted to tender perfection. Made with locally sourced New Zealand lamb, complimented with garlic and rosemary, and served with a generous side of scalloped potatoes.Ē (stoken from their website) You can also get a salad and rolls. Pedroís House of Lamb can be found in Aukland, Christchurch and Queenstown. Itís interesting that a restaurant can survive on one menu item. By the way it was really good. Fed both of us dinner, Ed will have left over potatoes with quiche for breakfast tomorrow and we have enough meat for three sandwiches.

It was a great day!!!

Couldn't resist doing this as it appeared to be the popular thing to do today.