Two minutes after midnight struck on the 14th of November 2016, an earthquake with the magnitude of 7.8 on the Richter scale shook across the south island of New Zealand. We were nearby, in Wellington, the capital. The kids and I slept through it while Peter wondered if he should be fearing for our lives (and apparently decided not to as there was no power outage). I woke up to a lot of whatsapp messages as people back home in Switzerland (it was noon there) heard what had happened.
Contrary to the news we watched on TV saying there will be no public transports running and that nothing will be open in the CBD area, it seemed like business as usual as we drove to the airport.
Our flight to Queenstown was luckily not cancelled. I later learnt that the airport in Queenstown is one of the most dangerous ones in the world as the plane has to make sharp corners and drop fast before landing. The wind also keeps changing directions making it imperative for the pilots to be specially trained for landing there.
Alas after two failed attempts at landing as the winds were too strong, we were told we would be diverted to Christchurch to refuel and attempt landing a third time. They however then decided to fly us into Invercargill which was a ghost town at the southern tip of the south island from where we took a bus up to Queenstown. I kept Ilyas entertained by letting him go crazy with sticking stickers on the bus’ window. Needless to say it was a VERY long day.
Luckily, we chose a great place to stay. Just look at the views we had!
We did a day trip to Milford Sound from Queenstown the next day. Milford Sound is a fjord in the south west within Fiordland National Park and Tewahipounamu which is designated by UNESCO as a world heritage site.
The journey was unforgettable for many reasons. We waited for the bus at the wrong Copthorne Hotel and had to run in the rain while carrying two babies at 6.30am to get to the right Copthorne Hotel. Our bus then broke down within ten minutes of departure and we were transferred onto another bus. Upon arrival in Te Anau (and realising Noah had a poop explosion all the way up his back), we were informed we will not be able to go to Milford Sound and will go to Doubtful Sound instead. Luckily we ended up going to Milford Sound after all and it was with Real Journeys which had the nicest bus (check out the roof/windows).
It didn’t end there. Ilyas was hungry and wanted a banana. He finished it and asked for another. I reached down to grab one from the bag at my feet and when I turned to give him the second banana, I saw that he had thrown up all over his beautiful new jumper. All this happened before 11am (after not much sleep following the long trip to get to Queenstown the day before).
The weather kept changing. It was sunny. Then it started to rain. Unsurprisingly, the landscape made me feel like a character in the Lord of the Rings.
We were lucky to see dolphins on the boat trip in the fjords.
The waterfall was beautiful. I believe we were told that it was as tall as the Niagara Falls.
On the way back we had a stop at Te Anau which is New Zealand’s second largest lake after Taupo.
As always a playground break is necessary with kids.
The next day we decided to do a cruise on Lake Wakatipu on the vintage steamship TSS Earnslaw which is the oldest steamship in the southern hemisphere to get to Walter Peak High Country Farm. It was such a fun day out despite it raining at times.
Ilyas could not contain his excitement and screamed for one of us to lift him up so he could see the engines at work.
At the farm we saw all kinds of animals (including Highland cows!!) and once again saw a sheep shearing demonstration. The one we saw in Sheepworld in the north of Auckland was however much better.
The next day we decided to do a helicopter flight in Queenstown.
Ilyas was beyond thrilled. We were greeted with incredible views of Lake Wakatipu and the mountains including the Remarkables mountain range (name given as it is the only other mountain range that naturally lines up north to south apart from the Rocky mountains).
On another afternoon we did a trip to Arrowtown which was once well known for gold mining.
We spent some time by the lake in Queenstown several times. The water was crystal clear.
A trip to Fergburger is definitely not to be missed while in Queenstown.