October - November 2019
  • Day27

    Adrenalin rush!

    November 7, 2019 in New Zealand ⋅ ⛅ 15 °C

    Had quite a bit of rain overnight but woke up to a dry day. Had to be up a bit smartish this morning as we were booked on the Dart River Jet boat leaving Queenstown at 8am.
    The coach left a few minutes late and we were driven up the east side of the lake to Glenochry which is right at the top of the lake, about an hour’s drive. At Glenochry we were each given a large waterproof coat with a hood and a life jacket to put on, all very serious! We then got on to our boat which held about twelve of us including the driver, Jimmy. He gave a bit of an insight in to what was coming a quick blast around the lake and then belt along the river for about an hour. Now the river is not very deep, maybe three or four feet, so these powerboats are specially designed for these conditions. In the lake he let the throttle out and did a few sharp turns so we got wet and then we set off up the river and at the same time it started to rain. The trip on the river was exciting, exhilarating, bumpy and wet and at times you could hardly see anything at all due to wind and rain! Unfortunately as it was raining the clouds had come down so the scenery was not as good as usual though looking up in the mountains waterfalls started to appear.
    Eventually it was time to get off in the middle of nowhere where a 4x4 coach was waiting for us but first we had a thirty minute walk into the forest where we saw trees estimated to be between 800 and 1000 years old and traps they’ve laid for possums and hedgehogs both of which they are trying get rid of. Took the coach back to Glenochry and then on back to Queenstown, a fun morning.
    Over a sandwich lunch we chatted about what to do this afternoon for as I’ve said previously there are no shortage of activities here. We had picked up a few leaflets ruled out bungee jumping, considered zip wire and rejected it due to the likely height involved so decided to go up the cable car for views over the town and lake. At the counter the girl asked whether we would like to do the luge whilst up there? Why not. So up the cable car we went and found the luge. This involves sitting in a plastic car and speeding off down two different runs at what seems to be quite a speed. Great fun. So we now consider ourselves to be adrenaline junkies!
    Managed to sort photos so there are some from yesterday - thank goodness for the iPhones!
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    John Townley

    Good view of Queenstown Golf Club. You’ll have to play it next time you’re there!

    11/9/19Reply
     
  • Day26

    Doubtful Sound

    November 6, 2019 in New Zealand ⋅ ⛅ 13 °C

    There are just four bedrooms at our B&B here in Te Anau. We had breakfast with two other couples - one had done the trip to Milford Sound and the other to Doubtful Sound yesterday. They had enjoyed the trips despite the rain! Fortunately for us today was looking fine.
    We were collected at 9:30 and driven over to Manapouri which unsurprisingly is on a lake, Lake Manapouri. It is a bit of a trek to reach Doubfful Sound for we had to take a boat across the lake which took about an hour then a bus up and over Wilmot Pass on a very gravelly road down to our boat to take us on Doubtful Sound. Whilst it took a while the journey was worth it. The captain of our ship across Manapouri asked us all to look straight ahead at the “big blue thing” meaning the blue sky which is rare in these parts for allegedly the Fiordland is one of the wettest places on earth!
    This was evident on our drive over Wilmot Pass where we made a couple of stops to admire the views but also to see up close the moss that grows everywhere for it is so damp. It was also interesting to see the scars on the steep hills all around caused by waterfalls and tree avalanches. Trees manage to grow on the rocks and all their roots become entwined so if a tree becomes unsteady and blows over it comes down the side of the hill bringing many other trees with it. This happened recently and closed the road over the pass cutting off the tourists on the trip that day who had to be helicoptered off.
    Doubtful Sound is quite stunning particularly on a clear day like today. We had hoped to see seals, dolphins, penguins and potentially whales but in fact only saw NZ fur seals . Whilst the weather was clear and bright sitting out on deck it was very blowy and quite cold but exhilarating. A very good but long day as we didn’t return until around 6.
    A quick change and we walked into town for dinner at the Fat Duck, no not Heston’s place.
    We leave Te Anau in the morning for Queenstown and our final three nights in New Zealand.
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    John Townley

    Pleased you had an important good weather day. Enjoy Queenstown!

    11/6/19Reply
    Nick Hallett

    Every day is a good weather day here JT. *cough*

    11/6/19Reply
     
  • Day25

    The road to Te Anau

    November 5, 2019 in New Zealand ⋅ 🌧 14 °C

    We waved a fond farewell to Wanaka this morning one of our favourite places (there have been so many) on our trip. We were lucky with the weather but the town, though relatively small, has a really friendly atmosphere and is a good fun place.
    So we set off south towards Queenstown. The route there was spectacular. We drove through an old town called Cardrona where intriguingly on a fence were a whole of ladies bras - very odd! The town itself is known more so for skiing not downhill but cross country. As ever in this country the views were spectacular and the road climbed to the highest sealed (tarmac) road in the country and we stopped to admire the view down towards Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu, quite wonderful. I have consulted my Thesaurus and have run out of adjectives to describe the views and scenery here!
    So we descended from on high taking on some very sharp hairpin bends and popped into Arrowtown. Arrowtown back in the day made its name from gold mining and is a popular tourist destination. The Main Street has retained its olde world look and if you wish to spend £300 on a merino and possum jumper this is the place to come!
    On from Arrowtown we bypassed Queenstown as we shall be there on Thursday and drove on along Lake Wakatipu stopping for a sandwich at a very remote cafe but it was a very good sandwich.
    Interesting listening to the radio they also have Bonfire night but fireworks can only be sold in NZ for the three days up to the night. Shame we don’t do similar. The radio is very intermittent and you have to keep changing stations and go fir long periods with no signal.
    The weather today has been a bit overcast with drizzle at times and the road from Queenstown to Te Anau takes you through agricultural areas. There was very little traffic on the road but thousands of sheep in the fields.
    We are now in Te Anau which is in the Fiordland National Park and at the foot of Lake Te Anau (there are a lot of lakes here) the second largest in the country. Te Anau is the setting off point for tours to Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound the latter we are doing tomorrow. The forecast is good for tomorrow so fingers crossed for as I write this it’s chucking it down!
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  • Day24

    Busy doing nothing!

    November 4, 2019 in New Zealand ⋅ ☁️ 21 °C

    After a busy week Wanaka gave us an ideal opportunity to relax and catch our breath for three days. Our hotel is about a twenty minute walk along the lake into the town. We have a comfortable, spacious room with a balcony overlooking the lake.
    Yesterday, Sunday, we woke up a bit later than normal having watched the rugby the night before that didn’t finish until after midnight here. We had our walking boots on today walking all around the town and other walks around the lake. One of the principal photo opportunities here is the tree in the lake, quite strange, photo below. We also found the local golf club for I planned to play Monday morning. All in all we walked for over ten miles.
    The hotel seems to be the largest in the area and in a prominent position making it an ideal venue for weddings of which there were both Saturday and Sunday. On Sunday we were sitting outside in the garden with the wedding going on behind us when a helicopter flew in over the lake and landed close by the other side of the hotel. Bit strange we thought, maybe a late arrival? A few minutes later it took off again and w thought little more about it until about forty minutes later when we had decided to stroll along the lake away from the town and the helicopter appeared again and landed about fifty yards away from us and out stepped the bride and groom who had been whisked away after the service to have photographs taken in some other location!
    This morning I was up early on two counts, to find out how Leicester had gone on against Crystal Palace (won 2-0, sorry Nigel though it’s about time we beat them) and to play golf at Wanaka golf club which was most enjoyable. A friendly club and an attractive course with some spectacular views over the lake and to the mountains beyond.
    We continue to be fortunate with the weather, apparently it is a lot hotter than normal for the time of year.
    We feel nice and refreshed now and ready for the next instalment which is a four hour drive tomorrow down to Te Anau which is in the south West of the South Island which is the furthest point we go and according to the ever reliable Google is a mere 11,733 miles from London.
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  • Day21

    Flying high!

    November 1, 2019 in New Zealand ⋅ ☁️ 16 °C

    We woke up to another beautiful day which meant that our planned flight over Mount Cook should be OK. At 8:30 had a call from the airfield, “Mr Scott, about your flight this morning ( Oh no I think!) would it be OK with you if the flight went at 10:30 rather than 9:30 for the conditions may be slightly better” Of course for we have plenty of time on our hands.
    The airfield is only about a ten minute drive away so once we’d packed the car we set off. It is only small but they run various trips from there many using helicopters. We watched a helicopter winch up a crate of bikes and then fly off towards glacier. It returned to collect a group of cyclists. We were in a small plane and there were just six of us including the pilot, bit different to a Dreamliner!
    We took and flew straight toward the mountains and what a sight it was, quite fantastic to be so close to the summit of Mount Cook and the Franz Josef pass. Had a couple of moments when we hit some turbulence and we we were rocking around and dropping but this apparently is quite normal. A wonderful experience!
    Once we were safely back on terra firma we set off stopping at Twizel for a sandwich and then a couple of hours drive to Wanaka. It I was a beautiful drive through fertile valleys and fantastic landscapes. The weather was kind to us with the temperature peaking at 28 degrees!
    Wanaka is another lovely place perched on the banks of Lake Wanaka with the mountains surrounding it. It is certainly geared up for tourists with a number of bars and restaurants on the lakefront. It is a year round resort for skiers come here during the winter.
    Once we had checked into hotel which is in a great position on the lakefront we walked in to town to do a bit of shopping and bumped into Jim and Sue our friends from earlier in the week so we had a couple of drinks with them swapping stories of what we’d been up to. We agreed to meet again later in the evening to watch the rugby.
    Went back to our hotel to change for dinner at Kira a restaurant that is recommended in Wanaka and it was excellent. So we then met up with Jim and Sue in a bar that had a big screen for the rugby. It was though very quiet with only about a dozen or so of us watching the match of which enough said! At half time the bar provided us with complimentary sausage rolls. Nice touch.
    We have have two further full days here which we are looking forward to.
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  • Day21

    Icebergs!

    November 1, 2019 in New Zealand ⋅ ☁️ 9 °C

    We had a very nice dinner in The Panorama Room at The Hermitage. The views were amazing. The hotel is huge and the focal point for activities in Aoraki Mount Cook.
    After a very good night’s sleep for it is very quiet here, we had our first self catered breakfast of the holiday, porridge, which we thought was a good choice for the activities we had planned for today. It is suggested we should have several layers of clothing.
    We had booked to go on the Glacier Explorers tour. We had to check in at the local Hermitage Hotel and I guess there were about forty of us. We piled on to a bus for a short ten minute drive where we were dropped off and then walked for about a mile to a lake where three open boats were waiting for us. The lake is bout five kilometres long and has only been in existence for the past thirty years and is a result of glacier melting. On to our boat with an excellent guide, Amy, who first of all suggested we put our hand in the water which of course was freezing! Out on to the lake where there were a number of icebergs not huge as we know of in Antarctica but only a tenth of the size of them is above water and they can move and break up or tip over at any time so need to be treated with respect. There were lumps of them floating on the surface of the lake that Amy lifted out for us to hold. Quite extraordinary for they are crystal like. Amy then took us right up to an iceberg for us to touch and break off parts in our hand.
    We then moved on to the other end of the lake to the glacier. It is about forty metres high but has a depth beneath the water level of over 200 metres. Pieces break off the glacier at any time to create new icebergs so you don’t go too close.
    The landscape here is remarkable for we are in a valley with hills and mountains either side. It looks big but in reality is huge and you get an understanding of this when you look out and see a car or a helicopter and they are like pin pricks.
    At the Hermitage Hotel there is a museum dedicated to the life of Sir Edmund Hillary who of course was the first man to climb Everest. Hillary was of course a Kiwi and did his training for the Everest climb here at Mount Cook which is the highest mountain in NZ at over 12,000 feet. There is a splendid sculpture of him looking out toward the mountain.
    Despite having porridge for breakfast and recommending layers of clothing the weather today has been excellent with clear blue skies and temperatures of around 18 degrees.
    In this area there are any number of walks and climbs ranging from serious mountaineering to more gentle walks the latter of which we did this afternoon and it was very pleasant offering great views over Mount Cook.
    We leave here tomorrow and head south to Lake Wanaka but en route we have booked a thirty minute flight over the glacier which is subject to the weather being OK.
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    Looks like an absolutely wonderful day!

    11/1/19Reply
     
  • Day20

    Lakes and Mountains

    October 31, 2019 in New Zealand ⋅ ☁️ 7 °C

    Last night, Wednesday, we had planned to walk back into Christchurch but as we were about to leave the wind got up and was really strong so as we had done a lot of walking the decision was made to stay and eat in the hotel and we had an excellent meal.
    Woke up this morning to blue skies and as we had quite a lot of driving ahead of us we had a full English breakfast to set us up for the day. Leaving Christchurch was relatively easy as it was well signposted for our route heading south. The further we left the city behind the more the traffic diminished, it really is quite pleasurable to drive out here with little traffic and good quality roads - very few potholes!
    We stopped for coffee at a nice little town called Geraldine and had a laugh when we used the loo for the walls were covered in Monopoly money and album covers notably Pam Ayres and Mrs Mills (older readers may remember her!). It also had a glitter ball! The town was well served with shops and we found a lovely garden walk where the local residents had planted rhododendrons and azaleas which as its Spring here were in bloom.
    Our next stop was Lake Tekapo which was quite stunning with remarkably turquoise water. This is quite a popular area for backpackers and holiday homes.
    We thought Tekapo was good but about twenty miles further on we had a “wow” moment when we crested the brow of a hill and had our first glimpse of Lake Pukaki where the water was an even brighter shade of turquoise but was set against a background of snow capped mountains, quite wonderful. We took some photos but they really don’t do it justice.
    We are staying tonight and tomorrow night at Mount Cook where we are self catering and there are limited options there so the advice is to buy what you need at the nearest town Twizel (great name) which is about 40 miles from Mount Cook. We bought all that we needed plus our new favourite ice cream Memphis Meltdown which are great.
    So tonight we are at Aoraki Mount Cook Village which is a small gathering of a large hotel, motel (us) and hostels in the foothills of the mountains and consequently is very cold. We walked out for dinner this evening wrapped up in jumpers and coats slightly different to a couple of weeks ago in the Cook Islands!
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  • Day19

    Christchurch and the missing camera....

    October 30, 2019 in New Zealand ⋅ ☁️ 15 °C

    We left Kaikoura having had breakfast with a couple of ladies who were also travelling with our agents Audley Travel though they were travelling in the opposite direction to us. They were on the Whale watch today so were interested to hear of our experience.
    The journey from Kaikōura took us south once again hugging the coast and initially was quite slow due to the repair works to the road following the earthquake. Quite extraordinary to see the damage that was obviously done some three years ago. What a task they have had in this area to effect some sort of recovery.
    After about an hour of travelling we turned inland and descended to the plains that lead up to Christchurch. Very different scenery with more agriculture lots of sheep and cows and great views to our right with the Southern Alps a number of which are snow capped.
    Arrived in Christchurch shortly before lunch. Now this city has been in the international headlines for the wrong reasons in the past years the earthquakes in 2010 and 2011 and the terrorist attack in March of this year. We were able to check into our hotel on arrival which was a bonus and after a brief unpack - we are only here one night - we set off into the city stopping en route for a sandwich.
    The damage of the 2011 quake soon became evident. There are a few buildings that were badly damaged that are worth saving and are being propped up notably the cathedral which is in a bad way but the plan is to restore it to its former glory. There are also a number of open spaces being used as car parks that previously had a building on them. We were quite shocked to see an area that has the footings of a building remaining, this was a 22 storey Price Waterhouse office block.
    We bought a hop on hop off ticket for the tram that takes tourists round the city. These are in old trams and is good fun with excellent drivers providing an excellent and informative commentary. We got off for a stroll through the Botanic Gardens and a walk by the river and then off again to see the “Cardboard Cathedral “ which is temporary whilst the main cathedral is out of action. It was at this point I reached for my camera......aagh! No camera. Must have left it on the tram. We walked back to the Tramway office which was only a few minutes away. They were able to contact the tram, but no sign of the camera. Maybe I left it on the park bench near the Botanic Gardens whilst waiting for the tram so walked about twenty minutes to said bench but no joy. A tram then pulled up so we got on it to go back to the Tramway office and lo and behold the first tram had now found it and would be round in about ten minutes. Great relief.
    We resumed our walk of Christchurch and saw the 185 white chairs that are being used as a tribute to the 185 people who lost their lives in the earthquake, very moving.
    Christchurch as a result of the quake, is now being rebuilt and there are new offices and shops springing up. There are also many new apartment buildings as the city is looking to encourage more people to move back into the city. It is a town planners dream to have almost a blank canvas.
    We leave Christchurch in the morning and head to Mount Cook where it is likely to be a tad cooler!
    Apologies about lack of photos yesterday hopefully now sorted! Also for some strange reason yesterday’s blog was dated 3rd April 2014 🤦🏽‍♂️
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    Sam Scott

    That was a real thriller!!

    10/31/19Reply
     
  • Day17

    Quake and Whale!

    October 28, 2019 in New Zealand ⋅ ☀️ 17 °C

    We left Marlborough on Monday morning in glorious sunshine and stopped briefly in Blenheim which is the largest town in the area. It was though very quiet being a bank holiday.
    Our drive down to Kaikoura was great. It took about three hours and we were in no hurry so stopped several times to admire the stunning views of the coastline to our left and mountains, some of which were snow capped to our right. There was quite a lot of traffic again due to the bank holiday. I have to qualify that comment compared to what we see at home. As we neared Kaikoura we started to see more evidence of the devastating earthquake they suffered just three years ago. From about five miles out the road that was completely destroyed is still being rebuilt so it is quite slow through this area.
    Kaikoura is an attractive town in a large bay and to quote directly from our guide boo,k:
    “Few places in the world are home to such a variety of easily spottable wildlife: whales, dolphins, NZ fur seals, penguins, shearwaters, petrels and several species of albatross live in or pass by the area”.
    The earthquake that struck in 2016 cut off the town apart from air and sea for several weeks and was so severe that it allegedly moved the South Island 5 metres closer to the North Island!
    Today we went out on the Whale Watch trip which lasted for about three hours. There can be no guarantee as to what you may see but if you don’t see a whale 80% of your fare is refunded. We were fortunate in seeing a sperm whale. Now these are really huge. They can spend between thirty minute and an hour underwater before having to surface to take air on board again and this is when we see them. The experienced crew on the boat had all the kit to be able to track the whale and give us a first class view. We were also able to see albatross and a few small dolphins. This afternoon we went for a good long walk round the headland and saw sea bird colonies and seals resting in the sun.
    Our B&B here is once again excellent. The views from our ground floor room are sensational looking out over the bay to the mountains beyond! Chatting to Julie, the owner, at breakfast this morning it transpires that she is also the town’s deputy mayor a position she has held for the past ten years. She was anxious to show us pictures of her with Boris Johnson who had visited Kaikoura shortly after the earthquake.
    Julie also told us that the town is preparing itself for the visit on 23 November of Charles and Camilla who are visiting here and Christchurch to see the recovery from recent earthquakes. We’ve heard that a recent poll in the town revealed that 92% of the population is not in favour of the visit. This is due to the cost and upheaval. If it was William and Kate they wouldn’t mind.
    Tomorrow we leave Kaikoura and head south to Christchurch.
    Apologies no photos on this blog, problems in downloading to the app. I will attach a few to email.
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  • Day16

    Good food, friendly people!

    October 27, 2019 in New Zealand ⋅ ☀️ 21 °C

    Woke up this morning, Sunday, to glorious blue skies though the wind was quite strong.
    After a decent continental breakfast we decided to once again go cycling as the hotel had bikes available for guests. In the Marlborough area there are a number of wine estates some offering wine tasting so it is quite a big deal here for people to hop on their bikes and visit these estates. We set off down quiet lanes amidst magnificent scenery down to the Wairau river which flows through the valley. It is quite a wide river and flowing quite fast. We cycled along the bank of the river and then came upon the Nautilus estate where we stopped to try their wine. A while ago a friend of ours had recommended Nautilus to us. We had a warm welcome from the fellow who was in charge of tasting who twenty years ago had moved out here from Liverpool so we had a good chat with him for he still follows the Reds and of course the rugby. He loves it out here and understandably so. As we had lunch booked today at the Brancott estate we made our way back to the hotel into the teeth of the wind which was a challenge!
    A month or so ago doing some research for this trip we’d read good things about the restaurant at Brancott whose wines we were familiar with at home. We needed to book a taxi ( drink driving is rightly frowned upon over here) to get there and on arrival you are met by a man in a mini bus who drives you up the hill to the restaurant, the driver came from Leicester so more banter!
    The views from the restaurant which is perched half way up a hill overlooking the vineyards down the valley towards the North Island were amazing. The quality of the food and wine matched the view. As good a meal as we’ve had in many a year with wine paired for each course. We were served by a girl from Paris and in overall charge was Sophie from Blackpool! Is there anybody left in England!
    Got back to the hotel late afternoon had a short rest before heading to the bar over the road which closes at 5pm (strange I know). We had been there yesterday and got chatting to the owner to insisted we called in again tonight. We left with a few bits of food for later this evening - felt a bit like a Red Cross food parcel, but a tad more expensive! He also gave us some tips for eating places for later in our journey so will be interesting to see what they are like.
    I cannot praise the people over here too highly, everybody is so friendly with time to chat, even about rugby, and are interested to know where we’ve been and where we’re going. An interesting aside about people over here I’ve hardly seen anybody smoking.
    We leave Marlborough tomorrow and head down the coast to Kaikoura.
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