Tuesday, November 27, 2012


The helicopter ride from Grasmere to Queenstown followed the Southern Alps. This mountain range is one of the only in the world to travel in a straight line North and South.

Our pilot told us that the reason the water here is such a vibrant color is due to the minerals in the rock. It never quite settles in the water and is therefore reflected in the sunlight.

Upon approaching the higher peaks we saw Himalayan Thars, which are like our mountain goats. They are extremely agile, quick, and sure footed.

When we got closer to have a better look, they ran up and down the face, bouncing and jumping from rock to rock with incredible ease! This species was introduced hundreds of years ago, as there are no indigenous mammals in this country, but has easily adapted to the terrain.

We flew along the range and passed the tallest peak in New Zealand, Mount Cook.

The second tallest peak, Mount Tasman.

After circling, we landed on a glacier to get an extraordinary view.

The snow wasn't packed and some of us had a little trouble :-)

Christmas card shot

From there we went straight to Queenstown

Once we landed we went about 30 minutes outside the town to the wine region. We visited the Mount Edward winery where we had a delicious lunch with the owner, Duncan Forsythe, overlooking the vineyard

Then we had a short tour and were able to try their variety of wines. New Zealand is known for their Sauvignon Blanc's and Pinot Noir's. I don't usually prefer Pinot's, but the bottles we tried were incredible.

We could hear the yeast bubbling in the barrels

After the vineyard, we went to our hotel, Matakauri. It was in a secluded spot on Lake Wakatipu that looked across to the ski mountains The Remarkables.

It was dinner time by the time we settled in to our rooms. We ate in the main lodge, had a delicious dinner, and saw a gorgeous full moon.
The next day we got up early because we had yet another full day in a helicopter to visit Fiordland and see the famous Milford Sound, which some consider the 8th wonder of the world.
Our day began flying over the Alps again. It was cloudy with a little rain. It is not the wet season now, but this area of New Zealand is one of the wettest places on Earth. They can get up to 16 FEET of rainfall a year! To put that in to perspective, St. Louis gets around 3.

On the other side of the Alps is their forest area, or what they call the bush. To us, it looked more like rainforest because there were giant ferns and leafy trees with vines. We landed in a spot and then took a boat on a river to a hiking trail.

Our guide was very knowledgable, similar to a Boy Scout guide and told us all about the forest and its plants.... We even tried some! We ate a leaf that tasted like a jalapeƱo pepper, a vine that was similar to asparagus, and a fern that tasted like a walnut.
Some of the trees were enormous! This place reminded us of Jurassic Park.


We reached the end of our hike where the helicopter was waiting for us. We were just inland from the coast so we had some great coastal views when we took off.

The entrance to Milford Sound

The Sound. It's hard to see but there are waterfalls cascading down the sides of every mountain.

After taking in the beautiful scene, we saw some of the other fiords.

As we approached a very tall waterfall, there was a lake at the top, our guide informed us that was where we were having lunch.

There is another smaller lake above this waterfall.

During lunch, we had some visitors. These are the only Alpine Parrots in the world. They are very curious and unafraid. This bird will kill sheep by attacking their backs and naw through their hide with power beaks. They tried to steal our food the entire lunch and even dared to hop up on our pilot's leg!

They are a very pretty green and when they fly their backs and the feathers under their wings are a brilliant orange.

After lunch we headed back to Queenstown. On our way we passed over a lake that many people jump in when they hike the mountain trails. It is so cold however, many people lose their engagement rings when their hands constrict. They have nicknamed it Diamond Lake.

The next day we had nothing planed and decided to see where the day led us.
I have wanted to bungee jump since the first time i heard about it. Having never done it and knowing the worlds first bungee was right up the road, we had to check it out.

My sister and my mom joined me.

Afterwards, we went to old, small town where they used to mine for gold, Arrowtown, for lunch. Then we walked around Queenstown shopping for souvenirs.
The next morning we left the Matakauri Lodge and headed back up to the North Island.

Location:Queenstown, New Zealand

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