Wednesday, November 4, 2015

2015 South Island tour - Sunday.

On Sunday  25 /10/2015 my wife and I flew down to Queenstown, New Zealand to do a 6 day tour of the area. There is a lot to see and do in the area and plenty of beautiful scenery.

 I had my new Nikon D7200 [as opposed to my new D70 10 years ago] with the 18-140mm kit lens which proved to be a very good lens for the task at hand. For the wide angle photos I debated whether I should use the 12-24mm lens or simply use the 10.5mm fisheye lens and crop/correct the images later. It turned out that for much of the really wide photos the 10.5mm lens was just fine without correction unless you have a tree next to you that will distort quite badly. Of course if you do a "selfie reflection" at the top of the gondola you will see a lot of distortion as well :)

Initially we had thought of doing one of the deals where you drive a camper-van from Queenstown to Auckland - because a lot of people do it the other way around so they offer cheaper prices to return a vehicle to Auckland. We went with  Discovery campervans   ...... unfortunately. They had a deal for $45 a day, "no hidden costs, no one-way fee". We paid for it and then received a message to book our ticket across the ferry. [No hidden costs, no one way fee?]. When we tried to book the ticket it was going to cost $500 extra! We contacted them and they refused to refund the full amount which cost us $200 "cancellation fee" just two days after booking it before we even started our trip - lesson learned.
Anyway prices for flights to Queenstown were 1/4 the price of what they were 10 years ago due to competition in the industry - finally. was very useful, we found a place called "Swiss Belresort" for the first two nights which had very helpful staff but a bad smell from the drainage by the second morning so they moved us to another room and gave us a free breakfast for our troubles. I would still stay there again if they guaranteed one of the less smelly rooms because apparently it is an ongoing problem but for $70 a night it was well worth the stay, that included free wi-fi. We rented a little Suzuki Swift from Jucy rentals  which was a great little car, only just big enough to take us and our luggage mind you, and very economical to drive giving us about 17km/l.
We drove up "The Remarkables" towards the ski field to get a better view of the town.

Sunlight has its advantages but if it's not behind you it makes for rather harsh landscape images. This was taken with the fisheye lens - there were times when I actually wished it was a little wider.

There was a reasonable amount of snow around though our first day was sunny, the second day had high cloud and we were told a few days after we left Queenstown that it was snowing back there. This photo was also taken from the top of the gondola ride in the later afternoon.

As mentioned there is a lot to do here, it's a really 'touristy' place and everyone's interests are well catered for.

The TSS Earnslaw boat takes people across the lake to an old homestead restaurant.

The town of Queenstown itself is very scenic and has pleasant walkways. Most shops have youngsters on "working visas" so don't expect to speak to many New Zealanders in town.

The Gondola will take you up to the lookout and restaurant, there are also steps that lead back up from the collection point of a bungy jump that sticks out of the side.

Commercial bungy jumping originated in New Zealand by the way.

On the top of "Deer heights" there is an old movie set  from 30 years ago left behind after a Disney movie was filmed there, something about some kids and a rescue from a North Korean prison. 10 years ago when I visited, Deer heights was open to public - you could drive up there after buying a $1 bag of food to give to give to the goats and other animals on the hill.  It provides a really nice 360 degree view of the area but unfortunately is no longer an option :( .

Of course in New Zealand there is always the chance of seeing something in the form of a Kiwi - something you will rarely see in the wild otherwise.

That ended a tiring day - waking up at 3:00am in Hamilton to get ready and be at Auckland by 6:00am to leave at 8:00am for the 1 hour 50 minute flight. 10:30am we picked up the rental car and started driving and obviously while setting up the GPS I wandered over the centre line [in a quiet area mind you] and that resulted in a phone call a few hours later from the rental company stating that the police had reported a call from a concerned member of the public about the vehicle we were in crossing the centre line and "circumstances would be more severe" if it happened again. Well I suppose the locals in Queenstown must get rather tired of all the tourists from other countries not knowing which side of the road to drive on :) .
The motel had an interesting way of ensuring you never locked your keys in the room - you had to insert the key to allow the lights to work :)

I have a photobucket album of images to browse for those interested.

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