First stop on my trip was Zurich, with predictable Swiss efficiency I passed through the clinically tidy airport in record time and found myself on a double decker train into the centre of the city. On cue it began to snow as soon as I arrived and walked to my hotel only a short distance away.
Double-decker train at Zurich Hauptbahnhof (Railway Station)
My hotel in Zaehringerstrasse is in a quaint part of town with narrow cobbled streets with lots of bars and restaurants, as well as a few establishments of a more dubious nature!
Cobbled Street in Zurich
Exploring the city in the evening for something to eat and to get my bearings Zurich seems to have a nice unhurried visitor friendly atmosphere.Trams are everywhere, Zurich must have the most comprehensive public transport system in the world and is something the locals are very proud of.
Bahnhofstrasse - the main shopping street in Zurich
Spent my first day doing a tour of the City, apart from a Spanish couple everybody else on the coach was Australian with absolutely no connection to each other!
We drove past all the sites (including for my friends in Cheltenham the global headquarters for Swiss Re and Zurich Insurance), the University where Einstein taught as well as walking around the older historic part of town down by where the River Limmat flows into Lake Zurich.
The clock face of St. Peter's Church
A shop window that caught my eye in the old part of Zurich
River Limmat flowing through the old part of Zurich just before it reaches the lake
Stopping briefly by the harbour we then drove south beside the east shore, passed Tina Turner's House (who is now a Swiss citizen having recently renounced her US citizenship) to take the (surprisingly speedy) ferry across the Lake.
Me beside the Lake in Zurich Harbour
The gates to Tina Turner's House on Lake Zurich
Taking the ferry across Lake Zurich
The coach then climbed up to the Felsenegg Cableway which took us up to the summit where there where spectacular views of Zurich and the whole lake. Australians seem to have a fascination with snow and snow ball fights ensued as we walked through the woods to a cafe for a warm drink (note to self remember to wear gloves when snowballing!).
Travelling up on the Felsenegg Cableway near Zurich
Picture of me on the Felsenegg Summit with a view of Zurich behind me
On the way back we passed the Lindt Chocolate Factory, birthplace of all those gold wrapped chocolate bunnies so favoured at Easter time.
Queenstown is proud of its "Global Adventure Capital" billing but I did manage to find a couple of less adrenaline fuelled things to do while I was there. For starters there is the 2,395 feet (730 metre) long and 1,590 feet (460 metre) high Gondola ride up to Bob's Peak with terrific views of Queenstown, Lake Watatipu and the surrounding mountains. Needless to say this being New Zealand (and Queenstown especially) you can also skydive and bungy jump (and a lot more besides) but I decided not surprisingly for those who know me to give these a miss!
The Skyline Gondola up to Bob's Peak at Queenstown
View of Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu from the top of the Gondola
Signpost high above Queenstown, London is only 18,946 kilometres (11,772 miles) away!
The Gondola back down to Queenstown
Skydivers coming into land high above Shotover Street (note the shop names - only in Queenstown!)
Lake Watatipu at 52 miles (84 kilometres) is the second longest in New Zealand with Queenstown situated on the north shore of a s-bend about half way down its length. In the past the lake was the primary means of transport with 4 steamers plying for trade but today only the TSS Earnslaw (built in Dunedin in 1912 and transported in pieces overland) remains. She sails several times a day loaded with tourists on its popular 7 mile (11 kilometre) trip over to Walter Peak on the south side of the lake.
TSS Earnslaw berthed at its wharf on Queenstown Bay
Queenstown as seen from the TSS Earnslaw
TSS Earnslaw at full steam across Lake Watatipu
Looking back across Lake Watatipu towards Queenstown from Walter Peak
Having spent 5 nights in Queenstown it was time to make our way back north towards Christchurch overnighting in Lake Tekapo. Before we got there we passed through Twizel (a "temporary" town built for construction workers in 1968 with diggers on display on the way in - a bit bland!) but then stopped at Lake Pukaki on what turned out to be a perfect weather (and it apparently doesn't happen often) to see Mount Cook. The conditions were so good I tried to sign up for a "Grand Traverse" Flight in a small plane from one coast of South Island to the other over Mount Cook (Maori name is "Aoraki") but unfortunately by the time we reached the airstrip a quite serious weather front had arrived and the flight was called off.
Me with Mount Cook behind me at Lake Pukaki
My MagicBus Crew at Lake Pukaki/Mount Cook
We then carried on to Lake Tekapo where we were to stay overnight which like Lake Pukaki also has a milky turquoise colour created by the glacial rock sediment that feeds into both lakes. Here there was the small stone Church of the Good Shepherd built in 1935 which has an awesome view of the lake behind its alter which makes it a very popular (and therefore exceptionally expensive!) venue for weddings. Lake Tekapo is also well known for stargazing from the observatories on top of adjacent Mount John but by then I was feeling too tired and cold for the climb up to the summit.
The Church of the Good Shepherd overlooking Lake Tekapo
The view behind the alter at the Church of the Good Shepherd at Lake Tekapo
The view from my where I did my blogging at Lake Tekapo YHA :-)
The final leg of our trip back to Christchurch was across the endless Plains of Canterbury, the largest expanse of flat lands in New Zealand. Not too much to report here apart from the clever irrigation machinery on wheels that seemed to be ready to walk across nearly every field. Our final stop was at the factory shop at the "Cookie Time" Cookie Factory on the outskirts of Christchurch to try some of their chocolate chip biscuits which seem to have become almost cultural icon in New Zealand since it was opened in 1983.
The one place outside the city that seems to be on everyone's bucket list when they visit Sydney is the stunning Three Sisters sandstone rock formation in the Blue Mountains about 40 miles (60 kilometres) inland at Katoomba on the Great Western Highway.
The Three Sisters Rock Formation in the Blue Mountains
Me by the Three Sisters Rock Formation at the Echo Point Lookout
The Jamison Valley and Blue Mountains
According to legend (and immortalised by statues outside neighbouring Scenic World) the three rocks are three sisters from the local Katoomba Tribe who were turned to stone by their tribe's sorcerer to protect them from the unwanted advances of three young men from a neighbouring tribe but that the sorcerer himself was killed in battle before he could turn them back to life again.
Statues of the Sorcerer and the Three Sisters outside Scenic World
Me beside the statue of the Sorcerer outside Scenic World
Scenic World itself began life as a coal mine in the 1880s. In 1928 a funicular railway was built to transport miners down the Jamison Valley side to the mine in the rainforest below which turned out to be the steepest passenger railway in the world (52 degrees contained within a total incline distance of 1,316 feet - 415 metres). When the mine closed in 1945 the funicular railway remained as a tourist attraction which became the Scenic World Railway we see today.
The Scenic World Railway about to leave its Top Station for the Rainforest floor
On our way down to the Rainforest floor aboard the Scenic World Railway
Coal Mine entrance on the rainforest floor at Scenic World
The walkway through the Rainforest on the valley floor at Scenic World
Since then the railway has been upgraded (including quite recently in early 2013) and the Scenic Skyway across the valley and Scenic Cableway back up from the rainforest floor added. The Skyway passes across the Katoomba Falls and includes a glass floor that defrosts as you set of so you can look down on the tree tops of the rainforest below.
The Scenic World Skyway making its way across the Rain Forest
The Katoomba Falls from the Scenic World Skyway
The floor of the Scenic World Skyway defrosts to reveal the Rain Forest beneath us
Looking back at the Rainforest on the way up to the Top Station on the Scenic World Cableway
On the way back to Sydney we stopped at the Featherdale Wildlife Park, an award winning zoo that opened in 1972 containing the world's largest collection of Australian native animals. Many of them such as Quokkas, Kangaroos, Emus and New Zealand Blue Penguins I had already encountered earlier during my round the world trip.
A pair of Quokkas at Featherdale Wildlife Park
An inquisitive Kangaroo at Featherdale Wildlife Park
An Emu on the prowl at Featherdale Wildlife Park
The Penguin enclosure at Featherdale Wildlife Park
However there were plenty of other types of Australian animals at the Wildlife Park I had not yet encountered including the ever adorable Koala, Swamp Wallabies, Dingoes and the Tasmanian Devil (and a lot more besides).
Koala at Featherdale Wildlife Park
Swamp Wallabies at Featherdale Wildlife Park
Dingoes at Featherdale Wildlife Park
Tasmanian Devil running around his enclosure at Featherdale Wildlife Park
Of course this time the animals were up close and personal so you were often also able to pet and feed them; although like my previous encounter with one outside Perth I still did not trust the Emu!
Me with a Koala at Featherdale Wildlife Park
Me with a friendly Swamp Wallaby at Featherdale Wildlife Park
This Emu was so enthusiastic pecking the food I gave I feared he would get my hand!
In addition to the native Australian mammals there were also native Australian birds such as Pelicans standing still like statues, brightly coloured Macaws and impressive looking Sea Eagles.
Pelicans at Featherdale Wildlife Park
A pair of Blue and Yellow Macaws at Featherdale Wildlife Park
White-bellied Sea-eagle eating a fish at Featherdale Wildlife Park
When we left Featherdale Wildlife Park the Sydney road network was totally gridlocked. To avoid spending the evening stuck in traffic we managed to get on a ferry near the 2000 Olympic Stadium and travelled down the river for a hour and a half to Darling Harbour in the centre of Sydney. As it got dark, the views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Darling Harbour all lit up were amazing.
Approaching the Sydney Harbour Bridge on a ferry at night