New Zealand and Australia - - Spring, 2007
In mid-summer, 2006, our friend and multiple Teleport customer Dr. Fred Koch invited Linda and me to a star party he was planning for Australia in March of '07. Fred lives in Texas but spends much of his time in OZ. He had invited us to star parties there before but we always seemed to have reasons not to go. This time it was different. Just before I picked up Fred's email I had been reflecting on the many friends I had lost in recent years. All of them had planned to do many things "someday" that they never did. I read the email to Linda and asked if she wanted to go. She quickly said "Yes" and in less than a minute it was decided..
I had long wanted to do some motorcycle touring in both Australia and New Zealand, so we decided to combine them with this trip. Linda was also interested in New Zealand as the location for the "Lord of the Rings" movies. She's become a real authority on the series and she looked forward to seeing some of the places where the filming was done. I invited my son Kevin and my niece Danielle to join us and they were able to for the part that coincided with Danielle's spring break. We also invited Linda's mom Cathy to join us and we all began to work out a schedule and book our motorcycle, car, and campervan rentals and our flights. Cathy drove from Gainesville, Florida to Dallas then flew with Linda and me to Auckland.
We picked up the campervan in Auckland and explored a loop north of there for three days before Kevin and Danielle arrived. When they did we picked up our two Suzuki SV650 motorcycles in Auckland and headed south. Cathy drove the campervan, carrying the beds and gear for all of us. Kevin and I rode the bikes with Linda and Danielle as passengers.
We took a fairly straight path down the north island to Wellington, then ferried across the Cook Straight to the south island. From there we mainly stayed near the west coast and skirted the "Southern Alps" as we traveled south to Queenstown. We were delayed by the weather in the mountains and decided to bypass Christchurch. We left the bikes with a guy there and Kevin and Danielle booked a flight from there back to Auckland. They flew to Hawaii and on home to Austin while Linda, Cathy, and I spent two more days in the Queenstown area before flying to Sydney.
New Zealand was every bit as beautiful as we had heard. The roads were great for motorcycles, though some were a bit tight for the big campervan. That's a very popular way to travel there and we saw several times as many as we typically do in the US. It was great to be able to pull over almost anyplace to sleep, but it was a big awkward beast except when rolling along a main highway.
We had quite a bit of rain, which isn't unusual there as the place is a lush rainforest. The food was great and we ran primarily on substantial breakfasts and dinners, with snacks for lunch. Food prices were fairly similar to those here, though they always seemed more because of the exchange rate. The people were helpful and friendly and we met folks from all around the world. Most of the New Zealanders were of Anglo heritage, though a significant percentage was clearly Maori, the aboriginal people of New Zealand.
The names of most of the small towns and areas there are taken from the Maori language. The names all seemed so similar I often confused one town with another. Overall, we found it a delightful place to visit, though I did have to come to terms with the coffee. It was generally good but done in the European style with each cup brewed separately to order. They just don't understand about pots or refills.
Following are many photos of our travels. The following links can be followed in order, or you can jump directly to a specific page. Enjoy!
|1 - Cathy, Tom, & Linda north of Auckland|
|2 - New Zealand, Auckland to Wellington|
|3 - New Zealand, Picton to Queenstown|
|4 - New Zealand, Queenstown, Milford Sound and Glenorchy|
|5 - Australia|
|6 - Riding the Snowy Mountains from Sydney to Melbourne|
|7 - Tasmania|
|8 - Driving the Coast from Melbourne to Sydney|
|9 - To Auckland and back Home|
Photos from Tom's Galapagos trip: http://www.teleporttelescopes.com/Galapagos/