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New Zealand trip

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  • New Zealand trip

    Hello, everyone from Aotearoa (New Zealand)! We're about halfway through a month-long trip here (coming from Colorado) and I'm happy to report that on the whole things are quite accessible and we've been able to see and do most of what we set out to.

    One accessibility disappointment has been that we were unable to rent a car with hand controls from any of the international or local car rental companies, which means that my able-bodied husband gets to do all the driving.

    Highlights so far:

    We spent a week in Dunedin and visited the Botanic Gardens (the lower gardens are very accessible; the upper gardens require excellent upper body strength to get up the steep gravel paths); visited the top of Mt Cargill and Signal Hill, and did drives along the peninsula and up the coast. We have not yet tried to visit the Albatross Centre or see penguins. Dunedin is extremely hilly.

    John and Katja at the Dunedin Botanic Gardens

    We drove through the Catlins to Invercargill, stopping at Nugget Point, Waipohatu and Curio Bay. Waipohatu has a short wheelchair accessible path through the forest, and Curio Bay has an accessible platform overlooking the petrified forest remains.

    A short wheelchair accessible walk in Waipohatu Recreation Area, the Catlins

    Invercargill is a pleasant and fairly flat city on South Island's extreme southwestern tip. We enjoyed the museum, Queen's Park, and the motorcycles at E Hayes & Sons.

    E Hayes Motorworks Collection - Ariel Square Four

    In Te Anau, we managed a Milford Sound cruise on a rare clear day. The large boats are relatively accessible, although the wheelchair has to be lifted over the bulkhead partition, and once in the boat, you cannot get outside or to any other level. The staff were helpful and fetched food and drinks for us.

    The cruise boats lined up at Milford Sound

    Milford Sound, from the dock, early morning

    On the drive back, we took an accessible 1 km trail at the Chasm. Back in town, we were able to do about 1 km of the Kepler Track along the lake.

    The Kepler Track

    More to come.

  • #2
    Thank you for sharing your trip and the terrific photographs you took. :-)

    I've been intimidated to travel since I start using a chair (coming up on 19 yrs).

    I have been wanting to see England and also Australia. Who knows?


    • #3
      If you can, you should go for it. I was traveling regularly for work when I started using a chair, so I just kept on going.

      After leaving Te Anau, we spent 4 days in Wanaka, a small lakeside town not far from Queenstown. Most days were very rainy, but we did take a drive into Mt Aspiring National Park and checked out some wineries.

      Bannockburn: View of Mt Difficulty vineyards

      Wanaka-Mt Aspiring road

      We are now in Tekapo in the heart of the Southern Alps. Getting into this little 1935 church required letting people carry me. We also visited Mt John University Observatory during the day, and plan to go on a night tour as well - this area is a World Dark Sky Reserve, and I'm hoping it will be clear enough for some really good viewing. Gravel has been the biggest obstacle to getting around up here.

      Tekapo: Church of the Good Shepherd

      Mt John Observatory: MOA (Microlensing Observations in Astrophysics) 1.8m telescope, the largest in NZ

      Looking down from Mt John Observatory: Lake Tekapo


      • #4
        Beautiful pics! I took a 2 week cruise through NZ and AUS last year, and it was too short. Would love to go back and spend more time there...


        • #5
          After Tekapo, we drove to Christchurch. The Inland Scenic Route goes past the fabulous Mt Hutt.

          On the drive from Tekapo to Christchurch

          In Christchurch, we took the Rebuild Zone bus tour, which takes visitors around the earthquake ravaged center of the city. The devastation was incredible, and the rebuilding is a very long, slow process, complicated by all sorts of insurance issues and lawsuits. The bus was accessible (regular city bus with a fold out ramp). Incidentally, there was a very noticeable earth tremor about 1/2 hour after we arrived in the city. The area has experienced tens of thousands of aftershocks since the main quake in 2011.

          Christchurch Rebuild Zone: Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament

          Christchurch Rebuild Zone: cranes over Christchurch

          Christchurch Rebuild Zone: street art

          After 3 days in Christchurch, we drove back down the east coast to Dunedin, and spent a couple of days on the Otago Peninsula, where we finally got into the whole penguin thing. We viewed the little blue penguins coming in from the sea at dusk. No pictures, because the point and shoot just doesn't do low light. The viewing platform is down a steep cliff, but there is a rough vehicle track and you can drive down escorted by a staff member. We also went up the cliff to see the world's only mainland Royal Albatross colony. There are paved trails to viewing platforms - steep, but very manageable with someone to help push. The hide for viewing the chicks is up a very steep (paved) path, and the Royal Albatross Center keeps a motorized scooter for manual wheelchair users to transfer into. We saw three fluffy chicks and a couple of mature birds cruising the thermals. This region is also home to the very endangered yellow eyed penguin. My husband went on a tour that involved hills and tunnels, and I was able to hang out at the penguin hospital and watch the penguins there being fed.

          Otago Peninsula: Hooker's sea lion

          Otago Peninsula: two yellow-eyed penguins returning from fishing

          Otago Peninsula: yellow-eyed penguin hospital

          Lighthouse at Taiaroa Head

          Both on the Otago Peninsula and in the city of Dunedin the motels we stayed in had very good and thoughtful access, including fairly accessible cooking facilities.

          In general, access information was not readily available via signage or on websites - I found I had to make personal contact with all the various places I wanted to go in order to find out about access. The Otago Museum had some whimsical information available, though:

          Access signage, Otago Museum in Dunedin

          Bottom line: New Zealand is beautiful and accessible and people are friendly and helpful.


          • #6
            Great pics!! Always been at the top of my bucket list. Did ya see any hobbits?
            Rick Goldstein
            GO! Mobility Solutions


            • #7
              No hobbits, and we didn't go out of our way to see any particular LOTR shooting locations, but many of areas we traveled through were very evocative of LOTR. What I wonder now is how they got all the sheep out of the way for filming...


              • #8
                Wow, great pics, looks like a real interesting trip. Next trip you should have a pair of portable hand controls with you. I never leave home without mine, can install them in a few minutes in just about any car, never anymore flack from rental companies over not getting a car with controls. I use PHC's. Something to think about.
                "Life is about how you
                respond to not only the
                challenges you're dealt but
                the challenges you seek...If
                you have no goals, no
                mountains to climb, your
                soul dies".~Liz Fordred


                • #9
                  curt, who makes your PHC?


                  • #10


                    The SCI-Nurses are advanced practice nurses specializing in SCI/D care. They are available to answer questions, provide education, and make suggestions which you should always discuss with your physician/primary health care provider before implementing. Medical diagnosis is not provided, nor do the SCI-Nurses provide nursing or medical care through their responses on the CareCure forums.


                    • #11
                      I was in New Zealand in December for two weeks, travelling solo. Drove around the entire South Island- rented a car from

                      They were very friendly and weren't expensive. Not exactly a new car I rented, but it was sufficient to get around. I found NZ very accessible, except for the expected lot of hikes. But even Punakaiki Rocks was accessible, etc.

                      I'm looking forward to another two weeks there in 2016- North Island and the Ferry/southern tip of the South Island.


                      ps. and bungy jump in Queenstown- SO MUCH FUN!