A Travellerspoint blog

Last Full Day in New Zealand

semi-overcast 70 °F

Well this is my last official day (Tuesday) in New Zealand. I am in Christchurch right now and I just got back from the International Antarctic Center. This attraction has been a leading visitor attraction here in New Zealand. This attraction cost more than $8 million dollars and it is located in the heart of the International Antarctic Center. The Antarctic campus is home to the New Zealand, United States and Italian Antarctic Programs, offices, warehousing, the Antarctic Passenger Departure Terminal.
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Antarctica is the coldest, windiest, driest, and highest continent on earth. It is a cold desert twice the size of Australia, sixty times bigger than New Zealand. The lowest temperature was recorded at -128F the average temperature is -31F. The first attraction I went to was the Four Season Room with a 7 minute sound and light show that has the four seasons of Antarctica.
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Scott Base is New Zealand’s modern Antarctic station. New Zealand has carried out an annual science program at Scott Base since 1957. They are currently studying the impact of human activities, ecosystems, and climate change.
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The next attraction I went into was The Snow and Ice Experience. Before going into the polar room we had to put on boots and a nice warm coat. Once again I got to play dress up. The polar room has real snow and ice. It even has an ice slide. You know I had to go down in at least once…..okay maybe I went down it 4 times. It was way fun.
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The polar room got down to at least 18 degrees Farienheight. The wind speed got to 18.4 mph and the wind chill was 1.6 farienhieght. The storm actually blows in this room every 30 minutes.
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Antarctica is a desert. It is actually drier than the Sahara! I had no idea it was that dry. The snowfalls produce less than 5 centimeters of water a year. The thickness of the ice cap away from the coast is 1.5 – 3 miles. If it was to melt the world’s oceans would rise by 150 – 180 feet. Only 2% of the continent that is ice-free has some of the most ancient of rocks over 400 million years old. In the dry valleys of rock the ground is permanently frozen half a kilometer deep. It actually hasn’t rained or snowed in those valleys for over 2 million years.
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Now onto the Blue Eyed Penguins. I want to take one of these home with me…but once again I think customs will have an issue with it. The little blue penguin is the smallest and most nocturnal of the 18 species of penguins in the world. They are found on the shores of South Australia and New Zealand. At night they come ashore to socialize and then return to sea before dawn. The male penguins attract females by displaying themselves in front of their burrows singing the ‘penguin love call’. Once a pair of penguins has bonded they return to the same nesting site each year. Chicks are born blind and almost naked. At 8 weeks the chicks are ready to leave to go to sea.
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I am actually taller than the biggest penguin!
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I thought this sign was good.
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I did not have time to go on the Antarctic Hagglund Ride which is an all-terrain vehicle. I really learned a lot about Antarctica during my visit today. It was very interesting.

Tonight I am going out with all the great people I met for dinner and some drinks. Tomorrow I am going to do a bit more exploring here in Christchurch before I leave to come back home.
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I am going to really miss New Zealand.

Posted by hmccurdy 21:41 Archived in New Zealand Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Horse Trekking and such

overcast 64 °F

Monday the tour left Dunedin and headed to Lake Tekapo. Before leaving Dudedin we stopped at the world’s steepest street named Baldwin Street.
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Baldwin Street is over the 161.2 meter length of the top section, it climbs a vertical height of 47.22 meters. Every year, during Dunedin’s Festival, large numbers of athletes, including families, take part in a social and competitive foot race to the top of the street and return. These races are known as the “Baldwin Street Gutbuster”.
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We stopped at the Moeraki Boulders and I thought it was a good idea to try and get up on one of them but well I ended up in the ocean soak and wet up to my calves. Oh well.
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So I stood in front of them.
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On the way to Lake Tekapo we made a stop to have some lunch. We went into a souvenier shop and I found the cutest and warmest hat. So of course I had to put it on. Could you see me at a Steeler game with this on?
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Then Katja decided to join in on the fun.
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The tour passed Lake Pukiki which is the largest lake in New Zealand. It gets the nice blue color from the ice from the glaciers.
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Before heading to the lodge for the night we stopped off at this beautiful non denominational church on the water. The inside is very small but it was nice to just sit in there for awhile.
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Late afternoon a bunch of us heading horse trekking or as we call it horseback riding. I got a lot of funny faces when I told some people I was going horseback riding and they all seemed to correct me and tell me that it is in fact horse trekking. When we got to the horse trekking stables we were asked if each of us had road horses before and I have. Just my luck they gave me the biggest horse his name is Trevor.
This is Trevor:
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The horse ride was about an hour long. We went on trails near Lake Tekapo and also around the lake. It was nice to get out for a bit even though it was a bit cold.
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In the evening we had a BBQ at the lodge. This was really nice having dinner with everyone that I have been traveling with the last two weeks. I have made so many new friends from all over the world. Tuesday is my last full day in New Zealand….which makes me sad. I guess it is time for me to get back home.

Posted by hmccurdy 20:28 Archived in New Zealand Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Penguins and Sheep Together.....WHAT????

sunny 68 °F

Sunday I left Queenstown and headed to Dunedin. Dunedin has a strong Scottish presence in the city. Dunedin was also the first city in New Zealand and is one of the major cities in Southern New Zealand. Around Dunedin has the largest variety of wildlife in the South Island. In the afternoon I went to the Cadbury Chocolate Factory which is in the heart of Dunedin. We went on a short tour because the factory does not run on Sunday’s. I do not think the 12 dollars that I spent was worth just seeing a Chocolate Waterfall and a brief video. The Chocolate Waterfall is for show and it has 1 ton of chocolate. They only change the chocolate once a year in the waterfall (it is obviously just for show). We got some free candy and a lot of candy I tried is not available in the United States.
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Mel is the Cadbury's mascot and I asked why he was named Mel but the tour guide said no reason. I don't believe him.
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In the afternoon I went on an Elm Wildlife Tour on the Otago Peninsula. During the tour I was able to observe many of the rarest, the largest, and smallest of their species.
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During the tour we had to go on some windy roads I thought for sure someone would have gotten sick. Luckily we all made it okay.
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The tour went through some walking tracks across farmland. When they told us to wear warm clothing they were not kidding. Also, when booking the tour you had to be at a reasonable fitness level for the tour and that was no joke. I cannot believe the walking we did up and down very steep hills. The tour lasted for about 6 hours.

We first stopped to see some birds and for the life of me I cannot remember the names of all the birds we saw. Then we headed to go see some seals, sea lions, and penguins. We went on a private land that they are permitted to access. The wind on top of the farms was incredible. At some points I felt like wind was going to blow me away.
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We got to see fur seals that were only one day old.
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There are only 170 sea lions in New Zealand and only 20 of them are female. So there are a lot of male sea lion fights. The sea lion believe it or not can run 20 kilometers per hour which if I did my calculation correctly it comes to about 13 miles per hour. Our tour guide told me that he gets chased by one at least once a week. He said the day before our tour a girl got too close to one on the beach and the sea lion went after her and he had to jump in the middle. The sea lion will attack fur seals by the throat and throwing the seal against the rocks until the skin cuts open and then slides the skin off. I had no idea that sea lions could be so vicious. Well this is the sea lion that went after the girl the other day....and I was 10 feet away from him. Our guide said he thinks that the sea lion is probably around 300 lbs or so.
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I saw many yellow eyed penguins on the beach. This was just amazing to see penguins in their natural habitat. I actually got to see penguin poop which is actually white if the poop is green then the penguin has a life threatening infection. If the poop is yellow that means that the Penguin has an infection. Recently, they lost a lot of baby penguins because of a life threatening infection.
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This is one of my favorite pictures. Did you ever think you would see Sheep and Penguins together? Neither did I...until I saw this.
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The tour then took us to see some Royal Albatross birds. The Albatross colony on the tip of the Otago Penninsula is the only mainland breeding colony for any albatross bird in the southern hemisphere. The Albatross wings can be 9’6” across, they can also fly up to 72mph. The albatross only live in the southern hemisphere. The Albatross can fly up to 6 years without ever touching land. All albatross birds are endangered because of the long line fishing.
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Just when I think that New Zealand cannot get more beautiful it does my trip to Dunedin has been amazing….I love the scenery and the wildlife. I really think that I would move to Otago Penninsula in a heartbeat. I am not sure what I would do for a living….maybe I could start a sheep farm (Hee, Hee).

Posted by hmccurdy 19:24 Archived in New Zealand Tagged animal Comments (0)

Weekend in Queenstown

sunny 78 °F

On Friday we left Franz Josef to Queenstown which is the adventure capital of the world. We left around 7:45 AM and heading down the last stretch of the West Coast. In the late morning we stopped at Lake Matheson, known as the ‘Mirror Lake’ for its crystal clear waters where you can see reflections of the Southern Alps and Mt. Cook.
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We then headed on into the Central Otago region the landscape changes from defense forest to plateaus, with stops at Lake Hawea and Lake Wanaka.
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Towards the end of the day we stopped off at the world’s first commercial bungy site, the 42m high Kawerau Bridge where I watched a few people jump off the bridge. Let me tell you those people are crazy. I found out the oldest person to do a bungy on this jump was 94 years old and the youngest 10 years old. I always wanted to bungy but after seeing this bungy jump I am just not sure.
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Friday night a bunch of us went out in Queenstown for some dinner and drinks. I ended up on a bar crawl with a bunch of people on the tour so we got to see a few pub’s throughout the city. Queenstown is more happening at night but once again the only thing you can really do is eat and drink. The night life is more happening….maybe because it was a Friday night.

Saturday morning was another early morning which the tour headed to Milford Sound. Milford Sound is rated one of the 1,000 places to see before you die. The trip took almost 4 hours to get to Milford Sound during the trip we passed Lakes Wakatipu and Te Anau, through Fiordland National Park.
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mirror_lakes_sign.jpg courtesy of Jamie Roberts (Friend from London)
I took a cruise through the Fiords, where I saw glacier valleys, river valleys with waterfalls.
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Instead of taking the bus back I decided to fly back to Queenstown. I am so glad I did because seeing Milford Sound from the air it was absolutely amazing. Also, it was only an hour flight so that was a bonus.
Here are a few of my pictures from the plane ride:
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Since I have been on the go so much I decided to go to the Hot Pools which was amazing. It was nice to relax for an hour look at the stars and hear waterfalls in the background. It was heaven.

Posted by hmccurdy 00:45 Archived in New Zealand Tagged tourist_sites Comments (1)

Where is the beach????

sunny 0 °F

I forgot to mention this in one of my earlier posts. I was in Nelson for one night a few days ago and a few of us decided to have a picnic on the beach. Well the trusty map that I had was not accurate. After walking well over an hour this is where the beach was supposed to be:
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And this is what the map took me to:
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So instead I ended up picnicing by the lake in Nelson.
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Cheers.

Posted by hmccurdy 02:41 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

A bit of rain today.....

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Today we left Greymouth to Franz Joseph. The tour left at 8:00 AM today and this is the first day that I have been traveling in New Zealand that we experienced some grey skies and rain. The first stop was to Kohitika to look at some greenstone. We also got to see a glass blowing demonstration. I bought myself a fancy shot glass from the factory (I think this will be the most expensive shot glass I have in my collection).

We then stopped at Ross an old mining town. I got suckered in to pain for gold for $6.00. I did get some gold, and then also a green stone. I think I am going to get a necklace made using the stone. The gold not sure yet what I am going to do with that.
Here I am trying to hit the jackpot:
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They had this cutout right outside the panning place:
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In the afternoon we stopped at Bushman’s Wilderness Center. Dad you would have loved this because they showed a video on deer in New Zealand. Part of the video though was a bit disturbing on how they trap the deer for all the deer farms in New Zealand. Some companies jump from Helicopters and tackle the deer. Other companies trap deer in nets from the helicopters. Many years ago in New Zealand you could hunt and shoot the deer from a helicopter. They no longer permit this in New Zealand because of the deer population decreased drastically. So now they have tons of deer farms around New Zealand. At one point getting a deer you could get up to $2,000 for the meet and skin of the deer. Currently, New Zealand has 8 different types of deer. Also, they had a pig his name is Tuku.
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Since the weather was a bit rainy and cloudy all Glacier activities were cancelled. So we went to Hukawai Glacier Center. Three of us in the group decided to do some ice climbing in the ice climbing chamber. This is the only one in the Southern Hemisphere! Yes someone really trusted me with two ice picks and nice spiked boots. I am not sure what it is with this trip but I have had only many hard helmets and booties. The temperature in the ice climbing room was -2 degrees. Yes, ridiculously cold. Our instructor showed us how to throw the ice pick into the wall and then how to get the boots into the wall. Let me tell you it is not as easy as it looks. I am proud of myself though I made it completely up the second climb. It was tough but I did it. I fell a few times but I survived with only a few bruises.
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If I lived near a glacier I could totally get into this climbing thing. After the climb we headed to a local pizza place for some beer and pizza. I was starving and thirsty after ice climbing for 90 minutes. I am sure I will be sore tomorrow.
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After dinner we went back to the lounge to play some games and take it easy for the evening. I have to get up tomorrow morning because my day is going to well be breathtaking.

Posted by hmccurdy 02:28 Archived in New Zealand Tagged tourist_sites Comments (1)

Greymouth

rain 67 °F

On Wednesday the tour left Greymouth and headed to Nelson. On the drive to Nelson we stopped at Cape Foulwind. We saw a few seals on the rocks at the Cape.
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Which way should I go????
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This is how far New York is from Cape Foulwind.
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I have made a new friend on my journey in New Zealand. Her name is Katja and she is from Germany. Katja has been traveling for I believe 4 months now.
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During the drive we went through many National Parks. One of the national parks was Paparoa National Park to see Pancake Rocks.
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It was a good day to be traveling because the weather on the western part of the Southern Island of New Zealand gets the most rain in New Zealand and many other cities in the world. In the evening we went on a brewery tour to Montieths Brewery Company. Katja, Gina, Jaime and myself tasted all 7 beers and rated them on a scale 1 being not so good to 5 being fantastic.
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Our tour guide whispered in my ear saying that I needed to go check out the men's room. He said he would not tell me why. So I had to go check it out. When I walked into the men's room this is what I saw:
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Of course then I decided I should take a funny picture.
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As you can see I had a great time. After the tour we got to pick our 2 favorite beers and got to pour the beer from the tap at the bar. After the brewery tour and tasting we headed to a BBQ and got one free beer of our choice from the brewery. I met some more American’s at the bar. It is kind of nice to run into people from your own country being so far away. Tomorrow the tour is heading to Franz Joseph to see some Glaciers.

Cheers

Posted by hmccurdy 02:15 Archived in New Zealand Tagged tourist_sites Comments (1)

Hello Southern New Zealand

sunny 75 °F

I finally arrived to the South Island of New Zealand on Wednesday! Here are a few pictures from the beautiful ferry ride from Wellington to Picton. The ferry ride took about 3 hours long. The ferry was sort of like a cruise ship it had a bar, food court, live music, and recliners. I did sleep a bit on the boat and then took a walk up on the deck. The view was absolutely beautiful.

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I am almost caught up on all my posts.

Hugs from far far away.

Posted by hmccurdy 01:27 Archived in New Zealand Tagged transportation Comments (2)

Skies in New Zealand

sunny 85 °F

I thought I would share some beautiful pictures of the sky here in New Zealand. This is especially for all my family and friends back in Pittsburgh!

Blue Skies and no clouds.
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Wait here is a cloud.
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I know you all miss me :-)

Posted by hmccurdy 17:06 Archived in New Zealand Comments (2)

Last Night in the North Island

semi-overcast 78 °F

On Monday I left Taupo and headed to Wellington. The tour left at 8:00 AM and we did a lot of driving thru Turangi which has the number 1 place to fish trout in the world. We stopped to have lunch at the flat hills café. I ate my first pie here……pie’s in New Zealand you can get various types of foods in little pies for lunch or breakfast. I got a pie with eggs, cheese, and tomatoes in it. Outside of the café were tons of lambs and one annoying rooster.

We arrived in Wellington late afternoon and stopped at Mt. Victoria lookout. Wellington is the capital city of New Zealand and the population is around 450,000 people. Wellington is considered the Windy City because of the winds coming from the northern and southern islands.
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I went to the Te Papa Tangarewa Museum in the afternoon. I didn't spend much time here because I wanted to roam around the city. The museum had a lot of information on the Maori Culture.
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I rode on a simulated adventure ride which was very cool....it showed a video of random adventures (Bungy, Rugby, Sky Diving, and things like that) in New Zealand. They had New Zealand on the floor and when you stood in a section of New Zealand it would show you a video of that section. I took a picture standing on Wellington.
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I also took a funny picture because I have taken a funny one each day. This was a sculpture outside the museum.
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Here is a picture where Lord of Rings Premiere was in New Zealand. Most of the movie was filmed here.
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Monday night most of the people on the tour headed to a bar called Nomads. We had an interesting time at the bar. One of the bouncers was Maori. He taught the guys in the tour how to do the Haka dance. Once the guys knew how to perform the dance they did the dance in front of the entire bar. Also, at the bar they played Maori rap music videos…..these were quite interesting. One of the video’s had a few Maori’s rapping in a heard of lambs. I couldn’t stop laughing at this video….all the american’s on the tour were very amused with the raping. I must admit some of it was kind of good.

Here is a picture of all the people I have been hanging out with on the tour. Many people are from Germany and England. Some girls are from the US and a few from Canada.
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Onto the South Island tomorrow.

Cheers.

Posted by hmccurdy 16:49 Archived in New Zealand Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

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