New Zealand – First Update

The second installment of the tales of our trip is long overdue, and I now find myself without my Dad’s handy dandy little netbook to write my update at a leisurely pace. So, I will do my best to fill you in on most things which happened in New Zealand, but there is just so damn much of it!

So it begins when Alan and I landed in Auckland airport, waited out the 6 hours until my parents arrived by sleeping on chairs in the busy airport terminal. We’re real backpackers now. My parent’s arrived a little late so it was a rush to get over to the domestic terminal just in time for the last call to catch our flight straight down to Queenstown. Now New Zealand is beautiful, absolutely stunning and nothing I can say is going to adequately describe that so the pictures will have to do their best. But it also happens that Queenstown is up there with my favourite place in the whole country. So, we arrived, a little jet-lagged, but very happy. Even more so when we arrvied at our luxury apartment that would be our home for the next six nights. That night we went for dinner at Dux De Lux a brewery/vege restaurant and anjoyed a fabulous meal until my mum and brother fell asleep in theirs and it seemed it was time to head for bed. Not before popping down to the water and finding the very same street performer who I have watched in Boulder’s Pearl Street throwing THIS playing card onto THAT roof. It really is a small world.

Our short landing on the Glacier

Our short landing on the Glacier

The following morning we woke up to a beautiful sunrise and the promise of a day full of activities. We were taking a helicopter to Milford Sound where we would cruise around the sound and then return to Queenstown by a light aircraft. Just unbelievable is all I can say to describe it. There is so much beauty out there that you literally don’t know where to look and just can’t take it all in. As a bonus, the helicopter landed on a glacier where we were able to get out and jump around in the snow. Everybody thought this was deep snow as they sunk up to their ankles. Alan and I knew better…

Milford Sound

Milford Sound

Another must when in Queenstown is taking the gondola up to the top of the hill to see the stunning view over the town. While you’re up there, there are certain other activities to enjoy, mostly involving throwing yourselves off of things. We all, except for my mum, did a tandem paraglide off of the hill. You literally just run off the top of it and then you’re flying. I was even allowed to fly mine myself. Later in the week Alan flew himself off the ledge bungy, while doing his best impression of a diving swan, while drunk. He also made the sound effects. You can see the video on here somewhere. But what became the obsessive activity of the week was luging. The premise is simple, a plastic cart on wheels with a handlebar which you pull towards you to brake. Then you work your way down the track to the finish. As hard as it is to believe, this became a little competitive. The warnings of no shoving, no overtaking and no group racing where quickly ignored as the track was turned into a blood bath.

Luging in Queenstown

Luging in Queenstown

I will never forget the face of my own father bearing down on me as he pushed me off the track and up a hill so that he could cut me up on a corner. Don’t worry , Alan and Chris took full advantage of this and overtook me as I was stranded on the bark chips. Or the other occasion where both Alan and my Dad tried to cut me up on the corner only to find myself wedged to the front of Alan’s luge being pushed along sideways to the track as my Dad pushes past Alan to win the race. It got so bad that the lady at the kiosk refused to sell us a photo because it showed Alan crashed. Ok, so he was sideways on the track, pushed up on the verge and looking after me as I gleefully overtook him, but what’s the harm in that?

While we were in Queenstown we also took a trip on the T.S.S Earnslaw across lake Wakatipu to a farm where we got to see a sheep shearing and sheep dog show. We also took a 4WD tour around an old mining canyon and a jet boating safari on the dart river. But eventually we had to leave Queenstown and the Luges behind and we startedon the first leg of our road trip. Onwards to lake Tekapo, population 303.

TSS Earnslaw

TSS Earnslaw

For our trip we had hired a people carrier (a toyota previa) which became affectionately known as the Spaceship because it was huge and gold.

It didn’t have rocket power however, but the engine of an old lawnmower. We sometimes thought it wouldn’t actually make it up the hill to our house in Queenstown!

Tekapo’s activities included a star gazing tour, which wasn’t quite as good as the last one I went on because on the cloud cover but they were giving out free hot chocolate so Alan like them. And that was it for Tekapo, the next morning we headed out to Christchurch.

The reason I have very few photos of Christchurch is because of the driving sideways rain. Christchurch isn’t my favourite place anyway but I like it even less in that condition. We managed to do the tram, the museum, a bit of the arts center and even visited their branch of Dux DeLux. The hostel pool table was very popular and probably doubled the cost of our stay there.

But once again, our whistle stop tour moved on, this time to Kaikoura. We had planned to do the Whale watching tour which my mum and I had loved when we were there before, but unfortunately the weather meant that all of the boats were cancelled that day. And as we were only there for the one night we didn’t get to do it at all which was a bit of a disappointment. So instead we made a fabulous Mexican dinner and played cards for the night. Alan made more friends, this time with a lame duck which seemed to live outside our door. Ermintrude can be seen in the photos. And she is nothing if not persistant. After being fed crackers she left and came back with a friend, which quickly turned into 5 friends. We spent the night shut in the room, hoping the glass doors were duck-proof.

And with that cliff hanger I have to go and get some more Internet time so I’ll be back to finish this soon.

Thanks for reading.

Sarah
xxx

Right, more Internet sorted.

So after Kaikoura, we were off to the place which had most excited me – the Abel Tasman – four our Christmas and a few days either side. Like all the other accommodation, my mum and I had found and booked this online where we’d been very careful to check out the food situation. For those that don’t know, both my Dad and I are Veggies and my Dad is a very particular veggie. So finding food which suits his tastes is not the easiest of tasks. But in this case we’d checked everything out and even had email correspondence with the hotel to check this wouldn’t be a problem.

The Abel Tasman is the smallest National Park in New Zealand and lays at the very top of the south island. It’s famous for it’s walking track which follows the coast and takes 3 days to complete. We arrived by water taxi. We had to drive to a remote little village and pick up the boat which then took us an hour into the park away from any road access. This meant that when we were at the lodge we were reliant on the lodge to provide everything, especially food.

Abel Tasman

Abel Tasman

The setting is beautiful and the rooms are equally so. But we were told when we arrived that there was a new menu out that day and so we had a look at it when booking in for dinner. There were only 5 main courses on the menu, 2 meat, 2 fish and one risotto. As we were staying for 4 nights this already looked like it was going to be a little limiting. It was even worse when we were told at dinner that the risotto was off. While the chef was good enough to make something up, my dad ended up with some potato with green veggies. Except the green veg included peppers, celery and courgette, which he can’t eat. We also discovered through all of this that the waiter was new and we’d caught him on his first shift. As we were to come to find out, pretty much all of the staff were new. In fact the oldest member of serving staff had only been there for 2 weeks. Even the chef was new. The old one had come up with this new menu and promptly buggered off leaving the new guy to deal with it. And as it turned out, this was pretty much the case with the entire hotel. The old owners had left and deleted everything as they went. So the new management were left with a whole huge mess to sort out which included emails about Weddings they didn’t know they were hosting. So this might give you some idea of the chaos we found the place in. Understandably because of the difficulty in getting food to the lodge it was quite expensive, but it felt disproportionately so. We found out that they would make a pack lunch up for walkers. But they wanted $20 for a sandwich, a piece of fruit and a carton of drink. At this point, the Robertson sly side emerged. We figured that if we ate enough for breakfast and managed to steal enough extras (fruit/muffins/bits of toast) we should be able to make it through the day until dinnertime. So the morning would see us taking bowls of food and then wrapping some up in napkins to take back to the room. One of the waitresses (our only co-conspirator) offered us a bag one morning for the sausage and jam sandwich Alan had made.

Christmas Day, Milford Sound

Christmas Day, Milford Sound

Christmas day was looming as a tricky time for food. We arranged a meeting with the food and services manager where we were essentially told that there would be a buffet costing $100 a head with no main veggie options. He wouldn’t budge on that even when we pointed out I’d be paying $100 for a jacket potato and some salad. So, we decided to boycott their Christmas dinner (so, it seems did pretty much everyone else in the hotel) and instead stole lots of food for lunch and then went to the pizzeria just down the track for our Christmas dinner. We then ended up playing a random game of Boule with some American women who’d never heard of the game – all very random but definitely memorable.

It wasn’t all bad. The beaches were lovely, as were the walks. And we managed to get in a session of amazing sea kayaking which included a dolphin named George swimming around us and loads of seals.

However, the morning we had to leave we got back to the mainland and immediately found a cafe with loads of veggie options which stopped us feeling like such crazy alien people.

We had a long drive to Picton where we picked up the ferry to the north Island and Wellington. We spent two nights in Wellington enjoying ourselves thoroughly seeing the museum, the cable car (although the boys did sulk there was no luge at the top of it) and even a lord of the rings tour which included the Weta Cave. There are more pictures to come.

Auckland

Auckland

And then it was onto Auckland for our final stop. We were all pretty tired at this point, but that didn’t stop us discovering a fabulous Mexican with happy hour margaritas for dinner. We then went up the sky tower for a beautiful view of the sunset. The following day we went to the Kelly Tarlton artic world and then for a cruise around the harbour. We then went to meet a friend of my mum’s for dinner which was lovely.
The next morning Alan and Chris decided to jump off the skytower as a good way to say goodbye to New Zealand. And then that was it, time to leave.

So now we find ourselves in Sydney which will have to be fit into the next update.

Hope you’re all well, would love to hear from you.

Sarah
xxx

Related posts:

  1. New Zealand – Third Update
  2. New Zealand – First Update
  3. New Zealand – Second Update
  4. New Zealand – Final Update
  5. US Travel Update