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Fitness and Photography for Fun - A blog on staying fit by hiking and doing photography by David Mendosa

Queenstown‏

March 23rd, 2010 · No Comments

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Queenstown is the top tourist town in New Zealand’s South Island. No other town can claim such a stunning background of mountains and lakes. A beehive of activity, this sophisticated town seems much larger than its official population of about 10,000 people.

I don’t do towns. I do nature. Still, I have to count myself lucky to get to Queenstown today.

I was lucky to get away from the Milford Track where I could have been trapped if I had gone just two days later. A big storm hit just after I got off the track. The rain that I saw on my first and third days on the track were nothing compared with what hit on Sunday night.

I experienced the storm from the safety of Graeme’s camper van at a holiday park in Te Anau. Between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. innumerable lightening flashes, thunderbolts, and wind heavy enough to rock the camper van kept me awake. But it was much worse for the hikers on the Milford Track who went out just after I did.

“120 trampers left stranded,” was the lead headline on page one of today’s Otago Daily Times.

More than 120 trampers were last night stranded in huts on the Milford Track awaiting evacuation, after a southerly blast tore through Fiordland and triggers landslips that closed the Milford road early yesterday,” the article began. “The storm struck early yesterday, bringing gale-force winds gusting up to 140kmh [87mph], nearly 200mm [8 inches] of torrential rain and more than 8475 lightening strikes centered on Fiordland and the Southern Alps.

“The force of the blast brought down trees, damaged huts and bridges, flooded parts of the Kepler, Routeburn and Milford Tracks and triggered two significant landslips that blocked the Milford road.”

The article went on for 21 more paragraphs. By comparison, passage of the historic U.S. healthcare legislation warranted only 19 paragraphs back on page 5.

But I got away comparatively easily, and even in busy Queenstown I was able to find a bit of nature. The one place that I toured in the town was the Kiwi Birdlife Park. I skipped the kiwis themselves because the park doesn’t allow photography, but I saw some beautiful birds.

An Antipodes Island Parakeet

An Antipodes Island Parakeet

Click on the picture above to enlarge

In fact, I saw the bird that I most wanted to add to my list of birds photographed, a tui, sometimes know as a parson bird for the pair of white tufts at its throat. I had actually seen one tui on Ulva Island and heard many others singing their wonderful songs, but this was the first one I was able to photograph.

A Tui

A Tui

Click on the picture above to enlarge

Before leaving busy Queenstown I drove about 30 miles to sleepy Glenorchy at the head of Lake Wakatipu, which provides the stunning foreground for 50 miles of lakefront surrounding Queenstown. This is New Zealand’s third biggest lake and probably its most beautiful.

Wilson Bay of Lake Wakatipu on the Road to Glenorchy

Wilson Bay of Lake Wakatipu on the Road to Glenorchy

Click on the picture above to enlarge

Without the mass of humanity, the Queenstown area is beautiful. Of course, when we have fewer people around, we appreciate them more.

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