Queenstown, NZ – Sunday, Jan 26th, 2014

Once again little sleep.  The music stopped at 3am this morning.  I was picked up by Nick and Noriko from BBQ Bus at 7am.  Nick is the owner/driver/tour guide and Noriko is the interpreter for the 4 Japanese who will be on the tour.  Only 7 people on this tour.  I like small tours better even through there are things to see that are rushed through.  Once again, a very similar bus to the buses in Sydney.  It was easier to get on than the Appellation Central Wine Tour bus.  The weather was not good to start with rain and cool temperatures.  But the rain would hopefully lead to many waterfalls through Fiordland National Park.  We made a quick stop in Te Anau for about 30 minutes before heading out through Fiordland National Park to Milford Sound.  It took about 2hrs 10min to get to Te Anau.  My original plan was to to stay in Te Anau for 5 days after Queenstown, I’m glad I did not.  The hotel I was going to stay was father away from the city center than I thought and the city center is very small.

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The visitor center in Te Anau has souvenirs, an information center and a cafeteria.  The visitors center is accessible with accessible bathrooms.  After the quick stop in Te Anau, we were on our way to our lunch stop at Gunns Camp in the national park.  The camp is for hikers to stay while hiking the many trails.  The parking area is gravel, some loosely packed and some hard packed.  I was able to get around by myself.  There is one small hill to go down that I probably would not have been able to make it up myself.  The lunch cabin is accessible with a nice deck surrounding the cabin.  There is a very small lip from the door frame to get in the cabin.   I was able to get in to use the bathroom but it is not accessible.  The door for the bathroom would not close.  Even if you swing the door the other way the bathroom is still too small.  We had a nice lunch that Nick cooked of chicken kabobs, lamb kabobs, sausage and salad.

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It took about 1 hour to get from lunch to the boat ride with a stop at The Chasm.  Very strong flowing water with great rock formations.  The entire path is packed gravel and uphill.  Nick had to push me up the hill but it was well worth it.

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Going down wasn’t too bad just needed to watch catching the front tires of the chair on rocks.  We arrived at the boat at 2pm.  We had very little time at the wharf but the entrance and ramp down to the boat are accessible.  The ramp up to the boat was too steep and I needed help.  There is a 5″ door frame from the boat door frame to get over that I was helped by Crispin, from Sydney and a Japanese guy on our bus.  A worker on the boat took me to the back of the boat to view Milford Sound but there is no outside access on the first floor.  With the money I’ve spent and this may be the only time I get here, no way I taking that.  There are 10 steps to get to the 2nd level with an outside viewing area.  I got out of my chair, bumped myself up the steps and two of the Japanese girls on our bus carried my chair up.  I transferred back in my chair then there was another 5″ door frame to get over.  I asked some random guy on the boat and he and the Japanese guy lifted me over the frame.  After a little work, I was on an outside viewing level to see the spectacular Milford Sound with an accessible bathroom.  Yes, you heard me right.  The boat tour was about 1hr 45min, the weather cleared up pretty good and the views were amazing.

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I left the boat the same way, help from those guys over the for frame, bumping down the steps and help over the last door frame.  The ride back to Queenstown was just over 4 hours with a stop in Te Anau.  We arrived back at 8:10pm.  I had a plan to have dinner, couple beers and update my photos at Monty’s but they had a free BBQ and it was packed.  I dropped my MacBook Air back off at hostel and headed out.  The next idea was a few beers and take Noodle Canteen back to my room.  I had a couple beers at Pub on Wharf then headed to Noodle Canteen.  While at Pub on Wharf, I received an email from Graham at AJ Hackett bungy that Tuesdays bungy jump was a go, SWEET.  Once to Noodle Canteen I find out it’s closed on Sunday.  I wheeled around and found PitaPit.  Very similar to Subway but severed in a pita.  Accessible off the sidewalk down Queenstown Mall.  No bathroom on premisses.  Headed back to the hostel around 10pm to sleep in.  I only used the jacket I bought once and that was at Gunns Camp.

The BBQ Bus tour was great.  Nick was very informative during the tour and more than willing to help me out.  If you are able to transfer yourself from the ground to your chair I see no issues taking this tour.  I had no problem finding help on the boat.  If you have no problem staying on the first level of the boat, the trip fairly easy.  The hardest part for me was having Nick push me up the gravel hill to The Chasm.  Most chair users with more mobility than me will probably no have difficulty.  I could have done most of it without help and struggled but with only 15 minutes here there was no chance.  It is a very long day though.

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