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The Great Loop

Rarotonga, Cook Islands    Chart
(Lat: 21º 14.19'S Lon: 159º 46.36'W )

We spent 3 nights on Rarotonga. It is a small island and we drove around the entire island on it beach road which totalled 32k. It is a beautiful tropical island of volcanic origin so it goes steeply from the water up to mountains. We stayed at the Rarotonga Beach Resort and enjoyed the time there snorkeling, eating and kayaking. We rented a car, had to drive on left side of road and toured the whole island pretty extensively. We had Judy and Ray join us on our drive around and had a wonderful time.
We found a lovely place to have lunch looking out over a beautiful pool area to the beach. We saw the mountain waterfall, their hospital, schools, housing, prision, and waterfront town area.
Spent most of the days in bathing suits and flip flops.
While we were there they were having the world championship outrigger races and we got to meet some of the competitors and saw the womens race end while we were having lunch at the harbor on our second day there. We even have a picture of Ray congratulating her on her win. We took some pictures to give you and idea of the flora and fauna. Great way to end our NZ trip and prepare to go back to the States. Our total trip was a wonderful adventure and the 43 people we got to do the adventure with were great people and we look forward to doing other adventures with them.
Auckland    Chart
(Lat: 36º 50.54'S Lon: 174º 45.48'E )

We spent the night in Auckland and then had the day to explore before we board our plane to Rarotongan, Cook Islands. Jackie and I walked through the town, checked the casino, checked their downtown mall and took a great harbour cruise. We made the most of the day before heading to airport at 6pm.
Rotorua    Chart
(Lat: 38º 8.12'S Lon: 176º 14.59'E )

On the day before we headed to Napier in the Hawke's Bay wine region. We visited a winery for wine and snacks and a presentation from their chief wine maker. We stayed in the town but nothing worth pictures or sharing.
Today we left Napier and drove up to Rotorua. This area is know for its hot springs, geysers, hot mud ponds, etc. The region has taken advantage of that by capturing some of the hot springs to make energy in a power plant. They also used the hot springs to build a world famous hot baths and sauna area. There is also a Poynesian Culture center called the Arts and Crafts Institute to show their crafts, host an indigenous feast and culture show. We also got to see their geysers, mud ponds, etc, including the inspiring Pohutu geyser. Very interesting day.
Wellington    Chart
(Lat: 41º 17.11'S Lon: 174º 46.34'E )

Wellington is a harbour town and called NZ's most liveable city. The harbour rises quickly to mountains so many of the homes are on steep slopes. It has a cable car system to get to housing on the top of the mountain and overlooks the town and the famous Wellington Gardens. We rode the trolley car to the top and then walked back down to the town through the gardens.
Christchurch    Chart
(Lat: 43º 31.55'S Lon: 172º 38.1'E )

We left Ashburton and drove to the Christchurch Airport to fly to Wellington on the North Island. Because of the earthquate earlier in the year, we could not stay in the town but we did have a view from a high overlook and also drove through some of the towns side roads. The destruction was very severe and they are still a long way from recovery. Since the original quake they have had over a 1000 after shocks, some of them severe. Some of the old buildings will not be able to be repaired and taking them down will be very tedious as they cannot implode them for fear of damaging already weak nearby structures. They built a new sport stadium and only played one game in it before it was destroyed by the quake. We took a few pictures of some of the damage.
Oamaru Harbour and Ashburton    Chart
(Lat: 45º 5.51'S Lon: 170º 58.13'E )

We left Dunedin and drove to Oamaru's historic harbour for lunch. It has a historic waterfornt shops area and looks out to the Pacific beyond the fishing fleets. The buildings were made of limestone and very pretty to see. We then drove on to Ashburton and our tour guide Watsy took us on a private tour the the famous boys school he attended as a youth. We got to see the school's historic military memorial chapel. It was filled with banners from the wars Brittian has fought in over the many years. It even had a picture and letter from King George. Very nice ending to our day.
Dunedin    Chart
(Lat: 45º 52.43'S Lon: 170º 30.1'E )

Dunedin was a very nice town to visit. It is the home of Cadbury Candy, Speight's Brewery and their famous railway station. We only spent one night but made the most of it by touring the railray, getting into entrance of Cadbury and a tour of Speight's Brewery and dinner at their pub. We have a few pictures of the events.
Milford Sound and Te Anau    Chart
(Lat: 44º 40.175'S Lon: 167º 56.31'E )

Today we left Qtown and drove to Fjordland National Park area which is known as the Milford Sound. It is called the 8th Wonder of the World by some and is really amazing. We drove through mountains leading us to the Sound. We passed some amazing topography. We took a cruise of the Sound and passed the incredible Mitre Peak, Bowen Falls, Stirling Falls, out to Pacific ocean and then back to port stopping by Seal Point.
After the cruise we drove on to the beautiful lakeside town of Te Anau to spend the night. We have some pictures of both areas and of some of the friends we met on the trip.
Queenstown, NZ    Chart
(Lat: 45º 1.52'S Lon: 168º 39.45'E )

We are on day 3 of a 17 day trip to New Zealand and Cook Islands. I will log in pictures and special activities to share the experience with others on our site. Hope you enjoy the pictures and comments.
We started in Queenstown on the South Island. Qtown reminds me of a sky resort in the US.We had a great time there. We zip line, para-glided, explored on a 4X4 bus and jet boat. Great way to unwind from long flights from DC to NZ. Unfortunately our para-gliding pictures are too large to include in this blog.