A Travellerspoint blog

New Zealand - Day 15

Queenstown

sunny 21 °C

Our weekend in the big smoke!

Friday night saw us strolling along the wide streets of Queenstown, looking at all the property shops and tourist tat shops. You will be amazed at what you can do with possum fur!

We walked down to the harbour area, just in time to see the steam boat leave. Its a living relic of a bygone era. All smoke, coal and whistles and bells. Sadly the $90 each to go on this seemed a little steep... or was that just me reading the tarriff wrong? We looked at the drinking possibilities and decided against the ice bar... where everything is made of ice. Even your glasses would have been ice sculputres. This seemed a step to far. So we hoofed it to the Hogs Bar for big beers.

Saturday was spent doing my least favourite task... shopping. I had to get a present for Nettie, as her birthday was up and coming and this was our last visit to civilisation. Wandering round the streets I pondered how the locals get on... there was no sign of a useful shop selling electrical goods or anything like that. You were ok for tourist tat, and surf wear, adventure sports etc but try and find a replacement toaster or some gas for your hair strighteners... or even do just a little grocery shopping.

In the afternoon we took the cable car to Bob's Peak... they call it a Gondola... anyway the views were spectacular. We even saw guys bungee off the platform over the cliff edge.

Evening time was food time... a BBQ on an old kitchen range, and more beer just to make the night complete.

So folks... thats as far south as we got. Every road now will lead us to home. Something almost sad about that. And we have a week and a half left! Mind you with temperatures of 22oC it will make the home coming more chilly.

So where next? Read on in the next installment.

Andrew

Posted by andyroo1 21:06 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

New Zealand - Day 13 +

We are lagging behind in our Blog.. so here come the edited highlights...

overcast 18 °C

We awoke in Akaroa to a grey sky so time to make tracks. We headed away from this idylic town up into the hills. Where yesterday we had taken a low lying valley road, today we headed up... and over. The Banks Peninsula is crested by a scenic summit road. The views from the top are spectacular... according to our guide book. To us it was just a bit cloudy. But we did get chance to take the van off road... along an unsealed road , which stretched for some where in the region of 20km. We had some good views of Pigeon Bay and Port Levy, before rounding the headland into Lyttleton. Basically this is no more than a suburb of Christchurch, but is where alot of the shhipping lands. We parked up and found the booking office of a tour company, got ourselves booked on and set out on a 2 hour scenic wildlife watching cruise.

2 hours later... we did at least see some wildlife. The trip was billed as a chance to see Hectors Dolphins... which are smaller versions of their Bottle Nose cousins. These small chaps like to hang around and show off in the surf out of the harbour entrance. We did catch a glimse of them... but not quite as impressive as our past few trips out on water when the wildlife has been the bonus. Still we got a free cup of coffee so it was all good.

Back on dry land we thought it time to make tracks inland. So pointing the van west we drove up into the mountains. Basically for those who have not seen what the south island looks like its just one big long mountain chain running down the middle of the land... with less land on the west than the east. Anyway we took ourselves up to Fairlie. Fairlie is just a quiet little stopover town on the way up to the mountains. Not much to write home about, but as it was getting dark and the mist was sitting on the hills we thought we would stop and make a night of it.

We parked in a motor park, by the edge of a stream and in a sectioned off area of the Domain. Domains are parks... sort of local recreation areas. All was fine... with the exception of the ducks... does noone know how to make use of them round here.. the place is full of them! Anyway we went to sleep in a light drizle.

Next morning it was still dull.. so we headed back onto the road. From Fairlie we drove up... over the Burkes Pass along SH8. This route lead us up into the Southern Alpine area. As we rode the crest of the pass the mist suddenly lifted to reveal bright sunlight and lovelly views of snow covered peaks. We stopped to take pictures of the cloud and the mountains. Our aim for today was to see Mount Cook.

We drove round some of the clearest bright blue water I have ever seen. The lakes we passed were all part of NZ power generating system. 1/3 of the power needs of the country is generated from this source. Masses of water are stored and forced through hydro stations to generate power. The recent dry spell has drained much of the water from these lakes though so there is a fear amongst some of the population that there will be power shortages and limits put on it.

We drove the 50km + road to Mt Cook village. Seen from this angle the mountain looked very impressive but tame. Strange when you think its about 3 times the height of Snowdon. We lunched outside the massive Hermitage... something of a badly named building as it looked more like a Nazi concentraightion camp than a top flight hotel, with rooms at $450 per night plus! We wandered along to look at the view from a vantage point looking up into the snow field on the top. Yet again I realised how bizzar it was... being summer and it being sunny and winter at home, yet here we were looking at snow! Mt Cook is very stricking and looks like a challenge to climb. We resisted.

Once more we called it a day and got back in the van and made a move. Back on SH8 we passed through Twizel, a town built to house the dam constructors who were tackling the massive building project of the Hydro scheme. The construction finished and the town was saved by the locals instead of being buldozed. There is even a Twizel Development Agency.

We dashed up the Linden Pass and headed down the otherside to come to rest in Wanaka for the night. Wanaka is a lovely lake side town. Being close to civilisation ment chefs night off... we went and had the most fantastic meal in a local restaurant. Very nice. But then it was an early bed... Friday was time for us to take flight.

We made an early start... to Makarora. From this point the plan was to take a scenic flight into the hills, walk out from a valley and be met by a boat and then get home that way... well little did we realise the plane was a 6 seater... us, the pilot and the pilots mate. We chugged along to the runway... powered up, each wearing our little headsets and bumped along the grass to a smooth take off... thats where the smoothness ended. Every thermal we hit, every gust lifted us. My hands were sweaty... then I looked out... how fantastic a view was that! We skimmed over pine trees and hills looking up secret hidden valleys. We saw crystal clear streams and sparkling water falls. The snow glistened in the sun as we turned past it. Then all too soon the pilot was turning his little handle and pointing the plane down... to Siberia... such a big international airport... not. The landing was as smooth as the take off... why can't big jumbo jets make it that smooth?

Once on the ground and my fingers had returned to thier normal colour we headed across a stream... well we would call it a river, and began our hike out. One thing noone had told us was that this water would be cold... and when I say cold I mean freezing cold. Glacial meltwater is not known for its warmth. And the icebergs floating past weren't too offputting. However with our shoes tied round our necks and our back packs tight on our backs we made it over this raging torrent. As we left the valley floor the views were as stunning.

We met our jet boat 3 hours later and hopped aboard. Then the most exhilerating ride ever down the Wilkin River back to Makarora. We both want a jet boat now. The 360o spins at 300hp were most impresive.. like a waltzer on water. Sadly I felt the woman next to me shake and was concerned she was going to empty her lunch onto my lap... fortunately for international relations she kept it down!

Back on dry land we headed along another deserted road over another pass.. this time the Cardrona pass. We headed into Queenstown to spend a weekend shopping and soaking up town life. So far 2654km travelled... how many more... who knows.

Tune in next time folks.

Andrew

Posted by andyroo1 18:06 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

New Zealand - Day 11 and 12

Captains Log... Star Date 57/34A

sunny 20 °C

So Kiakoura... the land of the motel and back packer. The morning dawned bright and fresh... we missed that bit... but by the time we awoke the sun was up... and yes.. there in the distance snow on the peaks... its about 23oC out and its almost summer here... and there is snow on the tops! Go figure.

We headed out from Kiakoura... getting our first glance at the local train... a daily service from Christchurch to Picton and back... 1 a day each way. No chance of popping down for an afternoon of shopping then!

We drove and drove... through more fields of lush grass and vines, cows and sheep, and along the coast some more. The road and rail line intertwining. Theres very little more to say about the route south along this way. Even the Guide Books say stop only if you need to... there is very little here to detain you. Full stop... so we didn't stop.

Lunch was had at a quiet beach... Amberley Beach... just an expanse of black sand, with salt spray settling over it. We lunched and then headed out back onto the road to Christchurch.

Our journey into Christchurch was flat, along the Canturbury Plane. ChCh (as the locals abreviate it) is build along the lines of a grid, so its hardly very difficult to negoiate... just point yourself in the right direction. We headed into town and parked up at the car park in the local park. Hagley park is the biggest urban park in the south island... and probably the whole of NZ. We took the tram ride into town, and sat on an empty street sipping long blacks and devouring muffins... this is the way to live. Strange... another large city... with about a dozen folk in. We just had to keep reminding ourselves it was real.

Chch is very reminisent of old english cities like Oxford, Cambridge and York... but you always have to keep in mind that the buildings here are based on those back in England... and were built about 80 years ago. The tram tours round the city, with a comentary from the driver pointing out the old buildings and the history behind them. For us though, living in a 300 year old house it all seems a bit new.

We took in the cathedral, the TIC... and then made our excuses and left... aonther 70km to Akaroa was called for before we could set up camp for the night. So we made the dash for it. We have now clocked over 1798km.

Our pitch for the night overlooked the bay at Akaroa. This is the very end of the Banks Peninsula... named after James Cook's botanist. Sadly the French got there before the English had time to build Barratt houses, so the place has a very New England / Canadian feel to it. Much more appealing than the blocks of Wellington. We wandered out to the light house... now moved from its most useful position, inland a bit to stop it from rotting away! Lovely smells of cooking met our nostrils.. reminding me it was time for beer. After a brush with the local pub and a 200meter climb up the hill to the campsite food was all that mattered... and oxgyen. Then once more to bed.

What will happen tommorrow... well you will just have to wait. Nettie is stood behind me... and i can feel her eyes messing with my brain telling me its time to cook some more food... oh well... I suppose I have to keep the Bongo Captain happy and well fed.

Night All.

Andrew

Posted by andyroo1 23:41 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

New Zealand Day 9 and on.....

The travels continue

sunny 18 °C

Blogging is hard work... so I have taken a few days off to travel instead of blog! Sorry folks... where was I oh yes... Blenhiem.

We spent the night under the hospitality of Gemmas folks... thanks to them we enjoyed breezy beaches, and roast beef, and way too much good red wine... all home brewed... but when you hear the real story it is not the sort of H/B my dad does... no... 2 gallon... whats that when you can brew 250 gallon... and bottle up arround 250 bottles of the stuff... oh and pick your own grapes.... the story is just so Kiwi it really doesn't make good telling in a blog. Anyway we finished off 3 bottles and then headed out to the spa. Again just so typical of the way of life out here... eat and then drink and then get in the spa. Very relaxing.. we now want to work out a way of getting one at home!

After a night in a real bed and a real decent nights sleep our feet got itchy... the call of the road beckons. Something about travel this way just makes you want to get moving... its like the travel becomes the reason... the sight seeing just something you do between overnight stops.

We took a back track along some of the new vineyards swathing the land. On Grahams recomendation we tried the Mud House... very nice wines... and a nice chat to a lass from Derbyshire who was working there. $20 later and a bottle safely tucked in the van... plus the 5 wines we tried whilst there we set off again. Our route took us to Renwick and then back to Blenhiem to get onto SH1 again. We headed through Blenhiem... watch out for the roundabout with the railway running through! We followed the line and the coast for quite a few km then. Passing huge vineyards and srubby hills. Our tour never ending... there was a stop at a seal sanctuary... just a collection of seals sunning themselves on the rocks... waching waves crash. We spent time here just looking and marvelling at how these ungainly creatures made it in the world... then watching as they swam in the surf like it was a square pond at home.

We travelled on through vast river deltas and over lonely bridges, past hamlets and bachs (pronounced Batch's) on to Kiakoura. Our journey now having totalled 1516 road km's.. plus about 70 odd over the Marlborough sounds. Kiakoura was our rest point for the night. The site was up to the usual Motor Park standard... very busy and even included a spa... sadly it was booked.

We strolled out along the sweep of the bay, all the time watching the clouds on the hillside. Rain was threatened, and the salt spray looked like mist in the evening sun. We enjoyed a sun downer in the local pub... right out at the wharf edge. Perfect location for a good pint. The gents loo even had a black borad for graphitti artists to add there comments... mostly about sheep and Aussies... and how Oz is the place where men are men... and sheep are worried.

The peace of the night was shattered at 2 am... when a goods train rumbled past the campsite... clanking into the night. My dreams filled with long distance trains and the perpetual motion in my head lulled me back to sleep.

For now...

Andrew

Posted by andyroo1 23:14 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Day 7 and 8

A tale of two islands

sunny 18 °C

Day 7... We arrive in Wellington.

Wellington is like no other capital city I have been to. Sat making my last Blog entry in a cafe at 4.30 pm... watching a hand full of people mooch about. No rush, no traffic as such and no bloomin Christmas music playing constantly!

We met up with Netties mate Gemma, who is now out here teaching. We took a quick tour with her round to the local curry house. All generally agreed that the curry houses in Bradford were better!

Day 8 was a damp cloudy day, so we did a few of Wellingtons finer sights. Te Papa is a huge museum, which means I was lost for the day! I had to be drageed kicking and screaming out of some of the galleries to eat... and we have saved a few floors for another visit. We stoped off at a view point on Mt. Victoria. Over looking both the harbour and the airport you get a sense of scale of the place. In Kiwi terms its huge. The drive down from Upper Hutt did remind me of Cardiff though and the place had a feel similar to Cardiff. Also we had a stop at the Cable Car... which I have to say looked more like a tramway myself! But hey, what do I know.

Anyway we filled the night time with popcorn... went to see Harry Potter... and can highly recomend the film... and the pop corn.

Day 9... the crossing.

For some reason we got up at some unearthly hour and took ourselves onto a ferry!

The trip along the Marlborough sounds has to be one of the most spectacular ferry journies in the world. The Challenger was our boat. And she was very well appointed for the journey. How come NZers know how to make such good coffee? Even at sea its fantastic!

We spotted a pod of dolphins in the sound and are now so glad we didn't pay to go Whale or Dolphin watching. We were met at the other side by Gemmas parents. Following them to Blenhiem through some of the most amazing filds of wine vines was an experience I will remember. The huge fields full of grapes make you reralise how much wine we now drink... considering 10 years ago this was all pasture and lambs!

Any way time is out again. I must finish now. The journey continues.

Night all.

Andrew

Posted by andyroo1 02:01 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

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