In the fall of 2003 we took a three-week Elderhostel (now Road Scholar) trip “Down Under,” spending about half the time in Australia and half in New Zealand. The two images below show the places we saw and our group of about 25. Below those are photos and information about New Zealand.
In New Zealand we spent time in Auckland, Rotorua (site of an active volcano), Queenstown, Te Anau, and Milford Sound.
In Auckland we toured the city and harbor, visited a national museum, and drove to the coast with “Crazy John,” a very knowledgeable and entertaining local naturalist, who introduced us to Western Springs (a local wildlife sanctuary) and Murawai Beach, site of a gannet colony.
We traveled by bus to Rotorua, where we saw several geothermal sites and were treated to talks and entertainment by members of the Maori community. Along the way we saw lots of fields of sheep and new lambs, and did “retail therapy” in stores filled with finished wool goods and other tourist treats.
From Rotorua we flew to Queenstown and Te Anau, where our first activity was the Milford Sound boat trip. Our guide confessed to us afterward that she was pretty sure we would not make it into the sound, because it had been raining and snowing, and there were avalanches in the area around the tunnel we had to go through. However, luck was with us, and we had a bright sunny day — perfect weather for the sound cruise!
The drive was also worthwhile, and included sheep ranches, mirror lakes, and dense forests. We even got to see keas, the most playful members of the parrot family.
Finally, back in Queenstown, we took a vintage steamer across Lake Wakatipu to a sheep ranch where we saw sheepdog herding and sheep shearing demonstrations, and enjoyed a delicious buffet lunch.