A Travellerspoint blog

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If a six-year-old can do this...

sunny 80 °F

Today we conquered the Sealy Tarns track in the Mt. Cook National Park. The hike has a 2,000 ft. gain. Biggest news: Pearl made it ALL the way to the top. It was her first butt-kicker hike!


At the summit, there was a large communal picnic table with a fantastic view of Mount Cook and glaciers. There we chatted with many interesting people from places such as Korea, Australia, Austria, and even Kalamazoo!

Pearl adding a well-earned rock to the cairn at the summit.

The ascent was incredibly steep and included 1,947 stairs up the side of the mountain; we counted on the way down as a way to keep Pearl's attention off of her fatigue. As we descended we proudly told the ascending hikers the number of stairs left to the summit. Additionally, Pearl would loudly yell increments of 100. There was an undefinable point when our news delivery stopped being welcome and turned into bad news. "You have 250 stairs left." Good news. "You have 1623 stairs left." Bad news.


So that, along with the fact that the tooth fairy visited for the 2nd time of this trip, is the big events of the day.

After our allotted 24 hours in the National Park, we have now arrived in Lake Hawea. We have an absolutely beautiful view from our hotel room balcony across Lake Hawea to the Southern Alps. As our luck continues to improve, we found a wonderful French restaurant and a pub attached to the hotel. We may never come home.

Posted by skwclar 22:27 Archived in New Zealand Comments (3)

Inspiring aspiring

sunny 77 °F

After a fatiguing day of hiking yesterday, we decided to explore Mt. Aspiring National Park by car and visit several sights easily reached alongside the main road. In the course of a 4-hour car ride, we saw jaw-droppingly beautiful scenery with snow capped peaks and lush verdant valleys being enjoyed by countless sheep. New Zealand has only around 4 million people but 60 million sheep. Why then is New Zealand rack of lamb ten dollars cheaper at a Costco in the USA than here in NZ?

The aptly named Blue Pool where we could see trout feeding near the bottom.

Thunder Creek Falls is an impressive waterfall that would have served nicely as a special place to linger, picnic, and contemplate the meaning of life. However, the unbelievably ravenous sandflies chased us out of the area in less than a minute. Yes, there are vampires in NZ, and they're called sandflies.

Roaring Billy Waterfall, hard to see in the background, but was a huge waterfall that tumbled over boulders.

This trip has allowed us to spend a tremendous amount of time together as a family. For the most part, it is a good thing. Although today, Sue tired of having the kids interrupt conversation while in the car. New family rule: to show that you are finished with your thought, you must speak punctuation marks at the end of your sentences. Period.

Posted by skwclar 22:51 Archived in New Zealand Comments (2)

REALLY getting away from it all, or The Bra Fence

sunny 81 °F

We were sad to say good-bye to the Lake Hawea Motel with its on-site restaurant and pub, modern hotel amenities, and beautiful view across the lake of the mountains.

Photo from last night with the moonlight shining on Lake Hawea.

The drive to our next destination in Kinloch took us past a unique New Zealand attraction: The Cardrona Bra Fence

We stopped in historic Arrowtown, a former gold-mining village. Once the gold rush started in California, the miners moved to the US to try their luck. Needing manpower to continue the mining, the village of Arrowtown recruited Chinese workers, but allowed them to settle only on the far side of town. There they built their humble dwellings.

Pearl "Grumpy" Griffin opted out of the obligatory family photo since she is feeling a little travel-weary today.

As we drove past Queenstown on dirt roads to the far end of Lake Wakatipu, further and further away from civilization (meaning a proper cup of coffee), Dave asked Sue, "So, on what criterion did you base your selection of the next hotel?"

It seemed like we were traveling to absolutely-outback New Zealand, driving past boarded up, abandoned shacks and marshy wetlands. Our next accommodation turned out to be a new experience for us. We are in a good youth hostel/backpacker's lodge: private family room, but shared everything else--toilet, showers, kitchen, grill, and... sand flies. Luckily Sue brought along a difficult-to-find (and probably illegal) item: 100% DEET. It is doing the trick and might be our new best friend for the next 3 or 4 days as we explore the area around here.

Sharing the lodge with 20-somethings should make us feel young again, right? Our rambunctious kids are definitely serving a purpose here: it might serve as a warning to not have kids too early in life. Seriously though, we are in a beautiful place. Although it is rustic, we have a great view of the mountains across the lake and fantastic weather with bright blue skies and temps in the low 80s.

Tonight we took a sunset kayak tour. It was a perfect night for kayaking as we watched the moon rise over Lake Wakatipu. We savored the mild evening since we know that the weather is about to get rainy.

Posted by skwclar 21:27 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Dolphins in Milford Sound

rain 58 °F

Our family hostel room back in Kinloch was barely big enough to fit the four of us and our luggage, and it was challenging to share kitchen, bath, and shower facilities with strangers, albeit mostly friendly strangers. Needless to say, we were happy to depart Kinloch Lodge. Henry had better start saving his money for the obligatory post-collegiate trip to Europe so that he can afford to stay in decent hotels since he made it perfectly clear to us, as only a teenager can, that backpacker's lodges are not his cuppa tea. The beautiful sunrise seemed to make up for a poor night of sleep:

After a five-hour drive, we arrived at Knobs Flat in Fiordland National Park--gateway to Milford Sound, a World Heritage Site. Our accommodation for these two nights was simple but comfortable, private and more to our liking than a youth hostel. It felt like our little cottage was in Yosemite Valley, and because we had no internet or tv, looking out the picture window felt like we were watching a nature show and pressed "pause." Six-year-old Pearl usually goes to bed by 7:30 pm and in these small lodgings, she is often put to bed in our big bed to fall asleep. The next thing she knows, it's 7am and she is waking up on a thin floor mat.


Upon arriving at Milford Sound yesterday, we were immediately swarmed and attacked by sandflies.

It would have been easy to do an about-face right there in the parking lot because of those little pests and the dreary weather, 58F and drizzle. We had to abandon the idea of kayaking Milford Sound, and instead opted for a two-hour boat tour around the sound. All of the rain made for spectacular waterfalls throughout the fiord as you can see in these photos. The change of plans allowed us to have a serendipitous encounter with dolphins that leapt and played around the bow of our boat. The skipper told us that he had never seen such a large pod of dolphins racing along. Pearl educated the passengers with her recently-learned body of knowledge from the Magic Tree House book "Dolphins at Daybreak."


Posted by skwclar 18:54 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

New Zealand grand finale in Doubtful Sound

semi-overcast 53 °F

What can we possibly write about one of the most beautiful places on the earth? Hopefully, these photos will capture the gorgeous scenery of the past 24 hours on our overnight cruise through Doubtful Sound on the Real Adventures Navigator ship. On board were about 100 people from Australia, England, Germany, Canada, China, and the US. Most passengers were either retirees or honeymooners; we were the only family with kids on board, which became painfully obvious when the captain requested that everyone be absolutely quiet to enjoy 5 minutes of pure silence in the New Zealand wilderness.

Henry and Sue enjoyed kayaking through the peaceful Sound while Dave and Pearl toured the same area in a motorboat with other octogenarians. All of us battled the ever-present sand flies, but Dave was singled out for special loving as evidenced by the multitude of bites on his ankles and feet.

Doubtful Sound is the most beautiful place in this fantastic country. It was the perfect ending to our travels in New Zealand.


Our 4-share cabin was meant for backpackers. Dave's comment, upon laying down in his lower bunk, "This is a preview of what my coffin will feel like."

Breakfast in the mess hall.


Rainbow in the front of Commander Peak at the entrance to Hall Arm.

Classic view through Hall Arm of Doubtful Sound.


Posted by skwclar 21:38 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

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