Monday, December 19

Jim and Jackie's Adventure Down Under

From the Kepler Track, overlooking Lake Te Anau and snow-capped mountains beyond.

Inspired by tales of travel from our guests -- and an incredible seat sale too good to pass up -- your intrepid innkeepers set off for another adventure, this time to Australia and New Zealand.

We closed up shop after a busy fall season then hopped on a series of flights for the looong journey to the other side of the world.

The trip started out with sun and sand in tropical north Queensland, mixing some R&R with easy touring from Cairns to Cape Tribulation, and spending a night on a liveaboard boat on the Great Barrier Reef.

Sun and sand to recharge after a busy season.

Watching the sun rise over the Coral Sea from a boat on the Great Barrier Reef.

Jim's bucket list: diving the Great Barrier Reef. He did seven dives over two days, including a night dive.

Not a diver, Jackie's happy to snorkel instead.
We saw sharks! Both of us saw sharks, and they didn't try to eat me!

We then spent a brief time on the north island of New Zealand, discovering the wild west coast and temperate rainforest of the Waiteke Ranges, before flying to Queenstown on the stunningly scenic south island. Here the adventure included fiords, lakes, mountains, glaciers, and sheep (so many sheep!) on our road trip from Queenstown to Christchurch.
We were in New Zealand when the big earthquakes struck Kaikoura and Wellington but we were fortunate to be safely in Queenstown at the time, well away from danger.

Karekare Beach, where the movie "The Piano" was filmed.

Wild and wonderful trees in the temperate rain forest.

Mountains + rivers = wateralls. We saw so many!

New Zealand Fur Seals at the mouth of Doubtful Sound with the Tasman Sea beyond.
Rushing river on the Haast Pass.

Franz Joseph Glacier
Windsurfer on Lake Wanaka. Love the colour of the glacial lakes!
Playing in the big boulders on Castle Hill.

Looking down on a lush New Zealand valley.

Up to the top of the world!

The highlight of our time in New Zealand was a spectacular hike on the Kepler Track. On the 3-day/2-night hike, we covered 50km and a lot of elevational change. To make it even more challenging, the second day -- the toughest one when we cross a number of ridges over the saddle of the mountain -- we were blasted with a snow storm and 65kph winds. We managed to get a little video (below) before the worst of it. The snow was coming sideways and on the exposed ridges, we were nearly blown off our feet. Such fun!

Climbing above the tree line, eye-to-eye with mountains.

We're heading for that summit behind Jim.

One of the ridges on the Mount Luxmore saddle.

When we weren't above the tree line, we were in verdant mossy forest.

Down on the valley floor, getting near the end.
From Christchurch it was back to Australia, this time to Melbourne. I have family just outside the city and it was a real treat to spend time with them (some I hadn't seen since they left Canada over twenty years ago!). While there we took a trip up the Great Ocean Road where we marvelled at the scenery and also saw kangaroos, wallabies, cockatoos, penguins and koalas.

The famous Twelve Apostles and sandstone cliffs.

Clouds, sun and mist over cliffs and ocean.
A mighty wind, an exhilarating view.
Wild cockatoos who don't mind taking a free meal from a human. Kind of like our chickadees!

We came across this koala in the wild while out on a hike. Of course Jim climbs the tree to get a close-up.

It was worth the effort for this adorable guy!
Hiking in the Otways. Now that's a tree!
We had an amazing time and can't believe the month flew by so quickly. It has only whet our appetites to experience and explore more of this incredible, diverse part of the world. Cheers to the next adventure!