Day 2 We Finally Arrive! What happened to June 9th?????
After 33 hours of traveling by air and bus, we finally arrive at Te Anau, New Zealand! It was very long due to layovers in Los Angeles and then again in Auckland. We flew to Queenstown in the south island and were met by our Kiwi bus driver, Karl. Sporting a grey ponytail and long sideburns, Karl sang and played his ukelele as we boarded. He will be driving us throughout our 2 week stay.
Once we unpacked and cleaned up, we had dinner at The Ranch. We flew all this way to eat dinner surrounded by cowboys and indians. Go figure. I had what is called, Sunday Roast. It's typically lamb or beef roast with potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots and peas. I, of course, had the laaaaaaamb. Yum. Sadly, one of our students, Alex, was not feeling well. She and Ms. Bottom's stayed behind the next day and missed the trip the following day.
We had a great night's sleep and up early at 6 to get ready for another ride to Fiordland, home to Milford Sound. We crossed the 45th parallel, drove through a long tunnel, crossed rolling hills filled with farms. The landscape reminds me of a bit of Glacier National Park, Zion National Park and a bit like Vermont. It's odd that it also has tropical foliage..palms, yuccas and the ferns are everywhere. Another interesting note is that it is the cleanest country I've ever been in. There's no graffiti or trash on the highway. There are very few people. The entire island has around 4 million people and you can drive for miles without seeing another car or house. The people are very friendly...if you can find them.
Once we arrived at Milford Sound, we boarded a small ship, we motored across the still waters into the sound. Along the way, the students photographed off the top deck and off the bow our beautiful surroundings. We saw where the glaciers cut through mountains and are met by the sea. There was a dusting of snow on some the mountaintops, but it was mixed with green lush trees and foliage which contrasted with the snow and ice. We saddled up next to waterfalls and rocks with seals. Dolphins met us and swam off the bow and scratched their backs on the boat. We arrived at the mouth of the sound where the glacier water blends into the sea. Far off in the distance Australia looms.
On the way back to Te Anau, we stopped many times for photos. The Chasm was our first adventure where you felt you were in The Lord of the Rings. It was dark and dank and light filtered through the trees on the moss and path. The river fell into a deep crevasse and we had fun hanging over the bridge to see who could get the best photo. The we stopped at Mirror Lakes which could have been a sight off Bolivar peninsular if only for the mountains in the background.
Home finally and we were all starving. The kids think they are really at a “fat farm” instead of an expedition. We missed a few meals with the travel schedule so we're trying to fatten them up today. We had pizzas and everyone seemed good. Back at the ranch, we had our first “pow wow” and shared highs and lows of the trip so far. Other than the lack of sleep and food, all seem happy and are excited to share photos of the day. It took some time to edit them and get them to choose their top 10, but most were surprisingly good. Only a handful of them have photo experience and many are newbies.
Day 3 It's a Lazy Day
Up for breakfast and finish editing photos, we gathered all of their favorite photo from yesterday and previewed and critiqued them. Amazing quality. They are soaking it up! We are off for a trek around the lake and more photos to be had this afternoon. More later...of the temperature here is fabulous. We are layering depending on the conditions, but it's not 105 degrees..more like 30's and 40's. Oh yeah.