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Published: January 10th 2017
Sheep and Mountains
Sheep are the most common animals in New Zealand. You can't go very far without seeing a field of them.
Photo update: I've lost my camera cord somewhere, so none of my photos can be downloaded until I get home this weekend 😞
The drive back to Queenstown from Dunedin was a piece of cake, especially since we'd already done it. It was too early to check in to our (different) hotel, so we parked in the city center and walked over to the Kiwi Birdlife Park
. It turned out to be a little more zoo-like than I'd expected (I was expecting more of a sanctuary style facility like the previous Penguin Place we went to in Dunedin, but oh well). It was still neat, and it was our only opportunity to see the national icon, since Kiwis are nocturnal, and we also saw some other native birds. They also have a breed to release program, which is helpful, since baby Kiwis are extremely vulnerable to predators (possums and stoats, etc), and females only lay 2-3 eggs per year; the babies born at the park are released into the national park at about 6 months old.
I must say that I was saddened to hear the employees of the park advocating buying possum
fur products (they're different than the
Pooed on by a Bird
I'd stopped to photograph the lake and that little black cat near the car down the hill. This is about where I got pooed on. That mountain on the right is where the guys rode the gondola.
possum we have back in the States and have quite soft and luxurious fur, much like rabbits or fox) with the claim that it helps with conservation. Kiwi conservation to be specific, since possums are at the top of their predator list, and the flightless Kiwi are cherished above all other creatures in New Zealand. As an ethical vegan (I choose not to consume or use any animal products at all "for the animals"), it was difficult to hear someone say it was a great idea to buy the pelts and fur products of any creature, pest or not, because keeping that fur market in business is good for the Kiwi birds. It's a hard argument to make, since they're living animals with thoughts and feelings that are trapped or poisoned, etc. While they aren't farmed/raised solely for slaughter, they're killed nonetheless and I just didn't agree with advocating killing animals and then profiting from them on top of it.
Alright, vegan soapbox over. After the park, the guys rode the skyline gondola
up the mountain where skiing takes place and there are supposedly amazing views of the city and mountains in the area. I am not a fan of
One of our stops on the 4 hour bus trip to Milford Sound
heights, so I skipped it and went to check in to our hotel. Funny story: I pulled into the driveway in the front of this place; it's one lane wide, and I see a garage door at the top, but there are also cars parked at 45 degrees all the way up. I found the last spot at the very top, but the concierge at the hotel recommended I park in back so I didn't have to carry bags up a bunch of stairs. There was only one way out of the car park/driveway - the way I came in. I had to reverse all the way back down that driveway while not hitting any of the cars and not smashing into the hedge on the other side. It took me 3 tries (I kept hitting the curb and going into the bushes, not super awesome), but I made it. Once the guys made it back from their sky high view of the city, the three of us went out to dinner at Farelli's Trattoria
. After dinner, we called it a semi-early night and hit the hay in anticipation for the next day's long journey, starting with a bus picking us
He wouldn't move for us, but ended up jumping on top of a van for a free ride down the road. He flew back to us shortly after.
up in town at 6:45am (I was stoked to not be driving!).
I left a few minutes before the guys to catch the bus, since I'm a slower walker than they are, and about 2 blocks away from our hotel a bird crapped on my head. I texted Jason and emailed Dave hoping they hadn't left the room yet and asked them to bring a wash cloth, but alas, they were only about a block behind me. I stopped at the public toilet to clean up as much as I could and when I apologized and explained the reason I was late to the tour guide employee and bus driver, they both exclaimed that getting pooed on by a bird is good luck. They were so excited about it, I just couldn't believe it. Well, after a 4 hour bus ride through farmland and the Fiordland National Park (also a rainforest!) with a few brief stops along the way, we made it to Milford Sound
, and took a 2 hour boat cruise before heading back on the bus for another 4 hours to get back to Queenstown. We all agreed that my getting pooed on by that bird must have
This was the large tagged adult parrot we saw first
been the reason we saw both dolphins and seals on the cruise. It wasn't guaranteed, and was especially nice since the guys' previous dolphin excursion in Akaroa had been cancelled due to poor weather. Our bus driver/guide was quite entertaining and informative, telling us stories about the native plants we were seeing on the drive, a sad tragic story of a foreign hiker who died this past July while on Routeburn Track, her own memories of NZ as a child, and even a Maori legend about Lake Wakatipu
. She unexpectedly pulled over at one lookout point so we could all see a Kea
, a large parrot native to the mountains, and who is particularly fond of pestering tourists (because they unwisely feed them of course). We'd seen signs at previous places, like the glaciers, warning people not to feed them and that their especially sharp beaks were excellent at picking away the rubber trim and wipers on parked cars, but we never saw the birds until just then. Our driver explained that they're captured by the Department of Conservation and tagged for monitoring and commented that this might be our only opportunity to see one in the wild, so I got
Can you spot the lone seal?
out and took a few pics, and noticed that it had tags on both legs. The rest of that bus ride we actually saw a half dozen more Kea, but we didn't stop or get out for photo ops the other times.
Once we finally made it back to Queenstown, we went back to Hell Pizza
again for dinner, then Dave headed back to the hotel to relax while Jason and I went to this place called The Winery
. We'd decided on this "shop" instead of journeying out to an actual vineyard winery for driving and convenience purposes - I didn't have to drive on the wrong side of the road after a few tastes or glasses, and we could just walk back to our hotel after having as much wine as we pleased. This place was pretty cool, and there are supposedly over 80 different wines you can taste, from various local and international wineries. We were given a chip card and glasses and sent on our way. The store was broken up by type of wine: one section of chardonnay, one of sauvignon blanc, one champagne, reds, etc, etc. You just insert your chip card into the slot by
the section you want to drink and choose from several different options in that flavor and what size you want (taste, half glass, full glass), and it takes a tally of your selections as you go through the shop. It was quite a genius system in my opinion, and I'd recommend it to anyone who's interested (and would also like one back home!). Unfortunately after such a long day, we were pretty tired and sped through 8 or 10 tastes in a very short period of time before setting on purchasing a bottle of the Mt. Difficulty Riesling
This morning we go to sleep in a bit before our 12:10 flight back to Sydney. The Queenstown airport is just as small and quaint as the online reviews, but check-in and security were a breeze. The Jetstar flight was also seamless, and I even finished my book-club book mid-air (The Orphan Train
by Christina Baker Kline. Girls, I got choked up and almost cried!). Back in Sydney this afternoon, we dumped our bags at Dave's apartment and grabbed lunch at Badde Manors again. It's walking distance, and vegan/veg friendly, so we just can't bring ourselves to go anywhere else. This evening, the guys are
doing some laundry and we're just hanging out indoors because the heat is quite oppressive at around 90. Dave goes back to work tomorrow, and Jason and I are planning to run around Sydney a bit as long as we can manage the heat (90 again tomorrow, so we'll see).
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