I can’t believe it’s been a month since my last post! Crazy busy…and yet in some ways so chill.
I left you, a month ago, in a field of lupin. Don’t worry, there will be heaps more of that in this post. In August, I had arranged my work schedule so that I could visit my family in California for Thanksgiving…knowing that would involve another 2 weeks spell in quarantine when I returned to New Zealand. Thanksgiving seemed so far away when I made the flight reservations, but before I knew it November was here! Before I left for California, though, I took 5 days to see a little more of this beautiful country and planned a little loop from Queenstown to Milford Sound and Te Anau, and then down through the Southern Scenic Route and back to Dunedin.
To say I love Queenstown, and its surroundings, would be an understatement. The towering mountain ranges that surround the deep azure blues of Lake Wakatipu, the clean, crisp alpine air…what’s not to like? The very small quaint town (village?) of Glenorchy, which rests along the pebbled shores of the Rees River as it drains into Lake Wakatipu, is a magical place. It is certainly one of the most photographed and oft used movie set locations in the world, and it’s easy to see why. Getting to Glenorchy is half the fun…since it involves traveling along a winding road along the picturesque shores of Lake Wakatipu. I had a great stroll along the Lagoon Trail, in Glenorchy, and again marveled at the scenery the whole drive back to Queenstown.
The drive from Queenstown to Te Anau is magnificent! Beautiful views along the lake, tall snowed capped mountains, and dozens of little streams which drain into large valleys with rivers. And in those rivers…trout! I didn’t do much fishing on this trip, but I couldn’t help myself when passing this little cafe. It also had Wifi…the network was: BrownTrout…the password was: BrownTrout. Crazy.
I stayed in the small town of Te Anau for 3 nights; how small you might ask? The grocery store closes at 730pm and only two restaurants were open for business. One of the attractions in Te Anau is the glowworm cave tour; it involves a boat ride from Te Anau to the western shore of the lake, and then a walk and another boat ride inside the cave to see these amazing creatures. It’s almost impossible to properly take a picture of the worms’ little blue iridescent glow….but I did get a good picture of the fine silken threads they spin (to capture prey).
The real attraction to Te Anau is its proximity to Fiordland, and in particular to Milford Sound. The road to Milford Sound is a meandering journey back in time. The locals say you want to visit Milford Sound when its raining (which, truthfully isn’t as hard as it might seem…it rains A LOT there), since then you will see exponentially more waterfalls. I was lucky…it was raining a good bit of the drive to Milford.
I can’t tell you how many waterfalls I saw on the drive to Milford Sound…it was easily in the hundreds. Everywhere you looked, there were not one, but dozens of them. It was incredible. Equally incredible, though without the grandeur, was the cheeky kea that landed on my car whilst I was parked (looking at more spectacular waterfalls). These protected birds (estimates are there are only 3000-7000 in the wild), which resemble a large green Amazonian parrot, are fearless. They will land on your car, and begin using their beak to remove absolutely anything they can from your vehicle. Weather stripping, loose plastic bits…anything they can get their beaks on. I watched one land on another car, and literally begin to tear pieces off the roof…it was hilarious. Then, the same bird landed on my car..which…wasn’t as funny any more.
On the way back to Te Anau, I passed a huge field of lupin. It involved crossing a river in my tennis shoes, but it was worth it. The fragrance wafted up when the sun hit the patch of brightly colored flowers…and the whole field just lit up with vibrant yellows, purples and pinks.
What a trip that was! But I didn’t have much time between returning home to Dunedin and my flight the next day to California. In true Dunedin form, the weather on my departure day was amazing, providing me an amazing view of the city and coast.
In the era of Covid, travel is different. There are many fewer connecting flights, which means longer layover times when you traveling afar. There used to be a direct flight from Auckland to San Francisco (my favorite), but that has been cancelled and now I had to fly through LAX and then on to San Jose.
It took about 24 hours of travel to get home….but seeing my family in person (we FaceTime a lot) was amazing. We ate, laughed, ate more and laughed even more. We played ping pong (table tennis), traveled to Santa Cruz to see sunsets…
The 12 days went by so fast….and then it was time to leave again. Hugs all around, tight goodbye embraces…and I’m on my Westward journey back to Nz (again, through LAX). I would not know where my quarantine would be ordered until we landed in Auckland (the last time I flew into Auckland it was the only city which was used for quarantine), and just seconds after the plane landed the authorities announced we would all be quarantined in Christchurch (so…another several hour wait at the airport, another 90 minute flight to Christchurch). It was a beautiful day for flying though, and I had my first window seat of the 3 leg journey here…I made the most of it.
There were so many of us needing quarantine, they didn’t tell us which hotel we would be staying at until we boarded our respective buses. Turns out, I hit the jackpot…I was headed to Chateau on the Park. Fortunately for me, hotel names are much more true to their description than nursing home names. If you’re 95 years old and being placed in a nursing home called, “Paradise Villa”…I’d had serious concerns.
I am half way through my quarantine. The time is moving way faster than my first one, and partly because its summer (warmer, more fresh fruit available) and partly because my current digs are a little better than the former ones, this experience seems more enjoyable. In just a week I’ll hopefully, if my next Covid test is negative (my first Covid test, day 3, was negative, and I get my next one on day 11) be boarding my last and shortest flight of this journey…back to Dunners.
Hope all of you in the USA stay safe. The Covid rates are frightening.