Been a long day, and I really need to get to bed. Up at 6:30 tomorrow to leave for Doubtful Sound at 8:00.

Met Jeff and Donna in lobby at 8:00 this AM. Walked downhill to Vudu for breakfast. Nice food. Unusual.  We then walked uphill to the entrance to the gondola and took it to the top. It was about 9:30 or so and the light on The Remarkables was great and ever-changing. We walked around the viewing area for quite a while taking in what we saw. Then got some coffee at their café and took the gondola down.

We next walked to the peninsula going into the lake called Queenstown Gardens and got more views of the city and the mountain range. Then a long, steep walk uphill to our hotel where we collapsed in the lobby until it was time to load up the van for leaving at 1:30.

We drove up beside Lake Wakatipu stopping from time to time for views and pictures. Lunch was late (3:30 or so) at the hotel in Garston. In 2012, we had stopped here, but only for a restroom break.

Back in the van, we headed to Te Anau just in time to take pictures on the lake at sunset. Dinner at hotel. During dinner, each of us talked about how we had gotten interested in photography and what are goals are. After dinner, Stewart and Jeff took two different groups of people to do critiques of a few images each. I was fading and a bit after 9:00 returned to my room to get this note out, take a shower, and get to bed.

Up at 6:00 and loaded bags in van and trailer at 6:45 and gone by 7:00. Drizzle all morning, so stops were a bit limited. Folks just didn’t want to get out in the rain. Made a breakfast stop in Twizel, then a bathroom stop later, and lunch at Gibbston, not far from Queenstown. From time to time, we did stop for photo shoots when the scenery called for it. Had one stop where farmer was leading hundreds of sheep in his truck to put down hay for them.  And there was the little town where Shrek the wonder sheep had been born and raised. Another one was at a pass over the mountains heading toward Queenstown.

Around 3:00, we spent an hour in Arrowtown. Not much to look at … mostly shops. Did see the restaurant, Saffron, where Jeff and I ate with the Dubinskys, Scotts, and Browns in 2005. Also a neat gold shop where they had huge nuggets of gold found in this area. About 4:00 we headed for the last few km to Queenstown. Staying at the Copthorne Hotel and Resort, near the Copthorne where I stayed in 2012. My room, 1353, is about as far away from the lobby as you can get, but it has great views of Lake Wakatipu.

About 5:45 or so, Jeff, Donna, and I walked downhill into the center of town. We ambled around looking at different restaurants and their menus. There is a festival going on here, so we stayed away from the lakefront crowds. Ate at Captains a wonderful meal – prepared sous vide! Then down the street for ice cream. I had fig pistachio.

Took the pathway up to the hotel. Steep but not as bad as the street. Got here about 8:00. I have faded in and out all day, sometimes feeling better, sometimes worse. Dinner and ice cream did some reviving. Will not do much now and go to bed early. Last night, I was asleep by 8:00. Needed it. 

Up at 6:00, got dressed and then waited around until about 6:45 to walk to Pepperberry for breakfast. Then Fiona, our driver, came with the van and we loaded luggage and gear into a trailer and the back of the van and left right when planned at 8:00.

Headed out over the plains of Canterbury, flat, crops, livestock. Sharron filled us in on history along with way. First stop was Geraldine where we shopped for snacks, cheese, got coffee, got ice cream (lemon grass ginger). We did make a few stops along the way for pictures. Ended up in Fairlie about Noon. Fairlie Bakehouse has phenomenal hand pies, hot, juicy, flakey.

Back in the van, next scheduled stop was Burkes Pass for pictures. Stopped elsewhere for pictures along the road. Then went to Lake Tekapo for pictures. Saw an Asian couple getting married out on the rocks by the lake. Groom set up a camera on tripod and took pix of the two of them.

We were supposed to stop at Lake Pukaki, but as we approached it, there was a full cloud bank that had descended into the valleys. Some of it was fog, some clouds. We could not see the lake. We drove thorough the clouds/fog for about 50 miles. Finally emerged above them as we neared Mt. Cook. So all got out and took pictures, of course.

Staying at Aoraki Court Motel, which is where I staying in 2012. Nice place. Got here around 4:00 or so. Van picked us up at 6:15 to go uphill to The Hermitage Hotel for a huge buffet dinner in their café.

As we went outside before going up to dinner, we remarked how many stars we could see since we’re out in the mountains and there is no light pollution. So, Donna, Jeff, Jonathon, and I got our gear and walked away from the motel up the hill a little and took pictures of the Milky Way. First time I think I’ve seen it. First time I’ve ever done star shots. Was great fun.

So, have a cold I think from the chill I got early in the trip. Taking some heavy Vitamin C and Manuka honey. Hope it will calm down.

While I went to bed around 11:00, slept in two-hour or one0hour increments. Cold is migrating, I think.  Downward. Got up at 6:00 since I was then quite wide awake. Going out at 7:15 to shoot pix of pre-dawn and dawn. Will be around 28 degrees out there. So, I have five layers of clothing on my upper body!

Ended up warmer than we all thought. But this is harbinger of a storm heading our way. We will be gone early tomorrow. Worried it was going to arrive today, but it didn’t. Set up and shot pre-dawn and dawn from 7:15-8:00 looking both at sky brightening up before us and rays of sun hitting the mountains behind us. Lovely. Could see a sliver of the moon by some of the clouds.

8:15 some of us headed up to The Hermitage Hotel for buffet breakfast. Very good, but pricey at $30NZD a person. Then back to Stewart’s room to assess what we were going to do and whether the helicopters out of Glentanner were going to fly. Got the word they could take us up, so drove there (about 15 minutes), weighed in, paid for the ride, then waited. There were 10 of us going up in three helicopters with all getting window seats. It was DP, Jeff, and me in one helicopter with me in front at first and then Donna taking the front seat after our snow landing.

Jeff and I did this in 2005. It’s a flight over Lake Pukaki, toward the Tasman Glacier, by Mt. Cook and the other nearby mountains, and a snow landing where you can walk around for about 10 minutes taking in the view. It was cold and windy, but we were prepared. What an exciting experience for all of us. The best part is the snow landing an unfettered views of all the mountains around us.

Drove back to The Hermitage Hotel for a light meal in their café and then back to our motel. I had thought I was going to join Stewart in the van looking for places to shoot, but it started to rain and I was really tired. Went back to my room (#25 if I haven’t mentioned that before) and worked on images from today.

Given the way I’m feeling (think I have low-grade fever), took some aspirin and am staying in tonight rather than going out for dinner with the group. We need to have luggage out ready to go at 6:45 AM tomorrow for our trip to Queenstown. Hoping I’m better by then.

So, three fantastic experiences here so far: (1) shooting images of the Milky Way with thousands of stars in view, (2) great sunrise with all the clouds you’d ever want to be lit by the Sun before it rises, and (3) the helicopter ride today with the snow landing. All good. All great travelling companions.

As we walked through the city yesterday, I was struck not only with the amount of new buildings in city centre, but also at the measures they seem to be taking during construction. There is extensive scaffolding and supports all around that seem designed to keep the building under construction from being damaged if and when there are other quakes. Since this city is really right on a fault line, quakes will happen.

My body clock is still out of adjustment. While I have slept pretty well the previous two nights probably from just catching up from the trip, last night I was up at 4:00, tried to go back to sleep, finally got up around 6:15. Part of the problem is that we get back from dinner around 9:00 or earlier and I go to bed around 10:00. So the odds of my sleeping to the alarm set for 8:00 are slim since I almost never sleep 10 hours. Also, I have a beginning of a cold from, I think, being chilled early in the trip. Hope it does not get worse and goes away soon!

This morning we are meeting at Pepperberry Café right down the block for breakfast at 8:30, but I got there at 8:00. I remember being there often five years ago. Nice place. Our gang came and went and we all congregated at the van at 10:00. Lots of stops this morning for jackets, cash, water. Finally headed out to Lylleton around 11:00 and went on the Christchurch Gondola for a view over the city and nearby Lylleton. Very nice views. Walked around the facility up there and also down a trail for a bit.

Nest headed downhill into Lyttelton for nice lunch on balcony of a café there. Once done, I wandered around the town, down to the docks, up the hill until it was time to leave. We drove back over a pass stopping here and there for the views. Got back to motel around 4:15. Too late to do much shooting since it gets dark around 5:00.

Around 6:15 we all met and walked down to the pub, Speight’s, where we had lunch the first day. As we walked, the power all around us went out. When we got to the pub, there was no power there. We waited, had drinks, and the power went back on. Finished, walked back to motel a bit before 9:00. Need to pack up tonight since we need to have our luggage out to load on the van at 7:45 sharp tomorrow AM. I’ll get up early and grab breakfast and be back here to load up. At least that’s the plan.

Too much van time today overall. Would have liked to get to the Botanical Gardens, but hope on the one day we’re back here at the end of the trip I can do that. Tomorrow to Mt. Cook!

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