New Zealand

January 11, 2012

View from the mountain by Queenstown.
I'm now wrapping up stops in the north and south islands of New Zealand. Six days is not nearly enough time to savor this beautiful, friendly country. Hope to return and explore more.

Milford Sound is the premier tourist destination. It's a long, dramatic fjord with steep mountains that plunge down almost vertically.  While often cloudy and rainy, the weather was not too bad the day I visited.

The drive from Queenstown to Milford Sound was long but every kilometer was scenic.

The world's heaviest and only flightless
parrot is the kakapo, one of New Zealand
several endangered flightless birds. Fewer
than 100 exist in the wild, but we stumbled
upon this one at a scenic photo stop.

Another heavy, flightless creature.
For fun, tour boats like ours often
go up to and into the waterfalls.

Milford Sound on a mostly hazy day.

Weather changed throughout the day from hazy
to briefly rainy to clear to cloudy.

Flew back to Queenstown on a helicopter. Here's the view
from the end of Milford Sound as my copter was departing.

Still reluctant to stand up tall
when copter blades are whirling
a few feet above.

A Māori cultural show, mainly singing and
dancing, featuring the haka war dance made
famous by New Zealand rugby teams.

Going back down the mountain
the cable car froze for 40 min.
No worries, mate!

Auckland, New Zealand's largest city, was enjoyable too. Like Sydney and Melbourne, its skyline was accented with a high sky tower that included a walk-on-glass thrill.