Joined July 2017 Message
  • Day33

    Art Deco Napier

    August 11, 2015 in New Zealand ⋅ 🌬 10 °C

    We got up at our usual time and were ready to head out about 8.15 and went to the main road to catch a bus into town. It came quite quickly and we set off looking for a place to have breakfast. Walking towards the sea we hit Marine Parade the sea front road and saw a cafe sign so went in - the Siz Sisters Cafe (turns out eh Six Sisters is a famous Napier landmark of six brightly coloured identically designed wooden building on the sea front and the cafe is in one of them). Breakfast was good 0 bacon and egg bagels and sausage rolls.

    We headed to the i site to get a map of Napier and see whether we should add anything to our to do list for the day. As the weather was sunny we started with the mini golf, right next door tot he isite. It was a good little course with some quite challenging sloping greens. Ed got i his usual mood about things being unfair and everyone else being so lucky - I told him about the famous Gary Player quote about the more I practise the luckier I get. I won this time, highlight being a hole in one on the sloping green on one hole where I read the slope (and surprised myself!). After this we headed to Opossum World, essentially a shop selling possum fur related stuff but with an area at the back showing how possums breed and how they are pests and some of the ways they meet untimely deaths on roads etc. Tash got a merino wool and possum blanket as part of her birthday present.

    Ed hadn't eaten much of his breakfast so was now hungry. We saw a McD's sign and headed for it but consulting a map showed it was quite a way away so we went into a local bakery/ cafe and had pies and cakes. Then we walked along Marine Parade to the National Aquarium. This had some good displays of fish, alligators, turtles etc and I got some creepy shots of a giant fresh water prawn staring down the camera. We arrived at a good time as having looked round the first exhibits we arrived at Penguin Cove about 15 minutes before feeding time, so waited for this. As well as fish, they had a Tuatara area, but they were well tucked away in their burrows as we expected given the cold weather. They alos had a kiwi area, which was lit more brightly than many we had visited and a brown kiwi darted around in their funny way. In Penguin Cove they had a colony of about a dozen Little (or Fairy or Blue) penguins, all rescue birds with various injuries. There was also an injured seagull living there that had only one wing. Feeding was funny, the keeper made sure he fed each penguin there share, which meant he had to distract some of the greedier ones and even move them away.

    We then headed for the main tank area, which had sharks, groupers, blue cod and sting rays amongst others in it. The tunnel through the tank was longer than most aquaria and had a moving walkway along it, presumably to keep crowds moving when there are more people there. We went through the tunnel a couple of times and then got off the belt in the middle and waited for the diver to enter the tank to hand feed the fish. This was a funny display - the rays behaved almost like dogs and seemed to respond to the keeper - they moved away when he pointed and then came back to take food he was holding in his mouth. HE also tickled them on their chin! The big sharks didn't seem hungry, though he did pull one over to feed. The guy pretended to take a mobile phone call half way through and feigned relief when the feeding was over, with big waves to the crowd.

    We headed for the cafe and shop then and acquired cuddly Dusky and Hectors dolphin! Leaving the aquarium we headed for the park the kids had seen on the way there. This had loads of equipment to play on, far better than parks in the UK and the kids enjoyed it. A rain shower came across so we left as the equipment was wet and headed back into town to the Art Deco Centre. They showed us a film of how Napier had been destroyed by and earthquake in February 1931 and subsequently rebuilt in the next few years in the style of the day - Art Deco. This was unique worldwide as most areas weren't building much due to the worldwide depression. The quake had raised the level of the land about 6 feet and turned a large area covered by water and used as a boating lagoon into land with the water draining into the ocean. The Art Deco buildings managed to survive the 60s demolition balls thanks to the creation of the Art Deco Trust. We had a good chat with the ladies manning the shop who, like everyone we had talked to in Napier apologised for how cold it was - we in turn continued to express how we didn't think it was old given it was winter, the sun was out and there wasn't much wind. They also gave us some tips of places to eat in Taupo.

    Ed was starving again and we couldn't face cooking in the campsite kitchens as it was so ill equipped, so we went to Subway and then caught the bus back to the park. The kids went on the trampolines for twenty minutes or so until it got too dark, then came back and we watched a bit of TV and another dvd of a modern day Cinderella story.
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  • Day32

    Rare Birds

    August 10, 2015 in New Zealand ⋅ ☀️ 7 °C

    Left the heating on full last night and woke up nice and toasty this morning. We did breakfast again in th camp kitchen and the kids played in the playground for abit until we were ready to leave just after 9.

    Short trip to the National Wildlife Centre at Mount Bruce aboiut 20 minutes away. This turned out to be a good place and Ed was very interested (as ever) in all the animals. They had a good interactive display area before you went outside to see the rare birds. We headed for the kiwi house and saw nothing in the first enclosure but round the corner in the other side of it running around was the start of the park the white kiwi girl. She had been born there a few years ago, product of two parents with recessive white gene feathers (not albino mutations, just like humans with ginger hair). We watched her running around and foraging in the earth before heading back to the cafe outdoor platform to watch the feeding of the Takahe. These look a bit like blue chickens with red beaks and were thought to be extinct until a breeding pair were discovered in the 60s. From these the population is now up to about 300 and growing. There were 2 in the park here.

    After coffee and cake we went back outside and chatted with another older NZ couple and one of the keepers about the Pukeko, another endangered bird. There call is very distinctive, except the one they have here was never taught i t as was brought up alone in captivity and does a cool wolf whistle instead of their normal sound!

    It was then time for the Tuatara babies (aged 10) to be fed. A spray of some water got him (or could be her, they can't tell until they reach about 15 or 20 years old) our from under the rock (they like the spray) and we learnt more about them (they carry eggs for 18 months then bury them for another 18 before hatching. In cold winters they go into a torpor state with a very slow heartbeat and just stop until it warms up (bit like tortoises hibernating). Also learnt that the sex of the babies is influenced by the temperature when the eggs are incubating.

    A live cricket covered in calcium powder was dropped in. The tuatara remained still but then the cricket moved a leg just a little and his head whipped around to look then another slight movement and he pounced chewing it down with teeth that are actually sticking up bits of the jaw bone. That meal would last him a couple of days.

    We then went back to the kiwi house but they weren't very visible (the white one was snuggled under leaves and branches in a den, whcih they hoped menat she was pregnant), so the keeper showed us the geckos, letting them run up her arm.

    As we walked back to the shop, the brown kiwi, partner of the white one was out foragig, so we got to see them both. Ed and I went to look at the eels, whoi were waiting for their feed in about half an hour. Then back to the shop for souvenirs and then on our way to Napier.

    We had planned to stop for lunch part way through the 2.5 hour drive, but Tash was asleep so we pressed on. Ed's navigating was a little dubious towards the end, not least his mixing upleft and right, but we found our park (Kennedy's) and parked up. The camp had an impressive playground with jumping pillow that the kids hit. all the equipment was under cover so play could continue through the rain showers. We had been given various vouchers for free child entry to things in town but one was fo an hour free bike hire in the parl so the kids got a two seater go cart style bike and peddled around happily. We cooked tea in the communal kitchen - this was not as good as the previous ones as not cutlery, pots, pans etc, we had to carry them over from the van. Another dvd watched and the tv also worked here at least for many of the channels, then bed to eplore Napier tomorrow.
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  • Day31

    Change of Islands

    August 9, 2015 in New Zealand ⋅ ☀️ 6 °C

    Had turned the heating down in the campervan when we went to sleep last night - turned out to be a mistake, everyone woke up cold with noses losing feeling! Will be leaving it on a higher setting from now one. We did breakfast this morning in the kitchen on the campsite, much more room than in the van and we had the place to ourselves. Showers were decent again here. I checked with the receptionist the ferry time - expected to depart about half an hour last, and checked the road conditions as there had been snow on the hills between Wellington and Masterton affecting State Highway 2, our route. This looked like it should be OK by the time we got there. I emptied the toilet cassette - not too bad as we had only weed in it!

    We checked in for the ferry about 9.30 - very painless, only took about 30 seconds then joined the waiting line. Exactly the same set up as the Isle of Wight ferry (and just as prone to lateness it seems). The ferry didn't arrive until about 10.30 and we boarded easily with the camper and went to the passenger decks.

    We got a couple of breakfasts in the cafe (sausages were not nice and had cheese running through them! Bizarre). Then we went out onto the decks and took some photos and admired the views of Marlborough Sound. This part of the ferry ride is considered almost a scenic cruise.

    We then went in and debated on whether to watch the movie in the cinema or not. It had been billed on the website as Inside Out, but had been changed to the Minions. We bought tickets even though Sam and Ed were seeing it for the second time. Have to say it was funny and helped pass the journey when we were out in the Cook Straits and it was a bit choppy (sea conditions had ben shown as moderate (the middle of their scale) before we boarded.

    After the movie we sat inside and Ed started to feel very sea sick. We tried watching a bit of the All Blacks game from the previous night (they lost to Australia), but even that didn't work. A crew member advised we should sit right down the back, which we did and it helped and we were soon inside Wellington harbour area for the last half hour or so of the trip which was much calmer. Ed felt much better and decided to eat some chips!

    We docked and drove off the ship just as torrential rain started. This eased as we drove a bit further along the highway, ut started again as we approached the hills. Through the hills the roads were very wet and it turned from rain to sleet and then snow as we gained altitude, but there was none on the roads and the drive was no worse than on a UK road in the wet. It was windy with tight bends which meant your speed had to be low anyway.

    Once out of the hills we passed through a series of long towns which seemed to spread along the main road for a mile or so each and then reached Masterton, the largest of the lot.

    Our campsite was at the far end of town, Mawley Park and we had a chat with the owner about the UK (he ahd lived in Derbyshire and worked across the Midlands) and rugby. We could park in any of the powered sites as the park wasn't busy at this time of year. He said a visit to the Mount Bruce Wildlife Centre would be worthwhile, so we will definitely do that on the way to Napier tomorrow.

    Ed and I walked to the NEw World supermarket about 10 minutes away and got some things including chicken, rice and vegetables to go with the butter chicken sauce we had bought in Geraldine. We cooked a nice meal in the communal kitchen and met a couple staying there who were sheep shearers travelling south to shear more (they kindly dropped in some microwave popcorn for the kids later on when we were watching tv). The tv room was adjacent and we watched some programs (one where a lady told celebs on hidden camera what to do and one where celebs competed to do a different act each week).

    Then back to the van or a bit of a movie before bed.
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  • Day30

    Baby seals

    August 8, 2015 in New Zealand ⋅ ☀️ 10 °C

    Today was scheduled in case we couldn't do the whales yesterday, so no firm plans other than visiting the baby seal pool at Ohau (more later).

    We woke up having all slept fairly well, though torrential rain on the camper van roof had woken all of us at different times. It fined up about 8 fortunately. The heating had kept the camper warm - probably better than many of the motel systems we had experienced which often used fan heaters. None of us had been able to locate the light switch for the toilet in the night, making using it a little tricky. Adults showered in the shower block, which had plenty of warm water. I was receiving texts from home regarding the Forest game, first of the season away at Brighton - they ended up losing 1-0, probably a sign of a long hard season ahead. At least the England cricket team going well, almost won the fourth test in 2 days like the third and should seal the Ashes tomorrow fingers crossed.

    Final checks done on the campers and we were off, 20km north to a short ten minute walk from the highway to a waterfall pool where baby seals are left by their mums to play. We got there and there were 4 seals swimming around in the water and playing with each other. A couple of them swam over to the rocks and sat up as if posing for our cameras. For a while we were the only people there.

    We carried on and all along the road beside the sea there were seals on the rocks and on the roadside verges. We stopped about 25 minutes before Blenheim to have a coffee and cake at a small cafe - had a very tasty custard cream/viennese whirl cross. We decided not to stop as intended in Blenheim as the cafe lady said Picton was nicer so decided to head straight there for a late lunch. However, Ed started to deel sick due to the windy rods coming into Blenheim so we did park up and have a quick walk around, visiting a stationery/book shop to buy some sketching materials for the kids. Then back on the road another half hour to Picton. We foudn the top 10 campsite quite easily and walked across the marina and the coat hanger bridge into the main town centre.

    We had lunch at the sister restaurant of where we had stopped earlier, Oxleys, a bar in an old building on the Marina front. We then had a wander through some shops including one called seaside gems. The owner was from the UK and now lived in St Ives, but had had a jewellery shop on the King's Road and Putney High Street. We looked at some rings that had been made by another ex pat lady from Spalding, who's brother had a shop in Sleaford! He described how there was quite an expat community of semi retired folks in Picton who spent summers in the UK and NZ. If we were there for longer he offered to take us out fishing on his boat - offer still available next time we visit!

    He pointed out the seals playing in the harbour and said if the water is clear you can see big rays in the harbour (not clear enough today when we looked). We went out on a pier to look at the seals and whilst the others went back to the campsite I went round to a further pier to look closer, The seals seemed very relaxed, swimming around and rolling in the water. Every so often they disappeared then a dozen or so fish would pop right up out of the water with a seal chaisng them and generally eating one (with seagulls then closing in to try nd steal a piece).

    Back on the campsite the kids were playing on the trampoline and see saw and I played some table tennis in the games room with them before watching TV with Ed - a program on sharks. We cooked some food in the communal kitchen, much easier than using the camper van and then retired to watch another dvd.
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  • Day29

    Campervan and Whales

    August 7, 2015 in New Zealand ⋅ ☀️ 10 °C

    We had a lovely breakfast again at the b and b and Spoodle the dog was very pleased that Edward didn't eat most of his bacon. Margaret sold the kids on visiting Hanmer Springs, but we didn't really have time in the schedule.

    We cleared the car and took a sad farewell photo with it, then headed to Wilderness campervans, getting there about 9.30. We were met by Bonnie and offered coffee, a good start. Unfortunately things went quite slowly from there - we started the check in process then Bonnie had to deal with a problem on the phones that took quite a while. Eventually she suggested we went into our camper and started to unpack. We got a free bbq and camping chairs and table with the hire, but they took up a lot of room in the external storage so we decided to leave them behind and use the space to store our many bags. The kids chose the 5 free dvd rentals we got with the hire. A fellow hirer was an Aussie called Brian and his wife Helen who had rented before and as Sam said (Knew everything but actually knew nothing". He was certainly a character!!

    Eventually we were shown how the camper worked, a whistle stop tour, - we hoped to remember the salient point. Our van needed a fill up with water and so whilst this was being sorted I went to take the car back to Apex, a simple process, then someone from Wilderness picked me up and took me back.

    We were ready for off and had a photo with the van to begin the adventure then we were off. The van was slower than a car but cruised along reasonably well, though yet to master exactly how the cruise control works, bit hit and miss! Maximum speed is 90km/h not the 100 of cars so journeys a little slower and the crockery rattles a bit!

    We arrived at Kaikoura just after 3pm - the last half hour of the journey had been quite windy and made everyone feel a little bit queasy, but the road hugged the coastline right down at sea level, with waves breaking on the rocks. We went straight to the helicopter whale watching office on Whaleway Station road and checked in. As the helicopter only held three people we needed two and the guys suggested we did one trip after another with two people going twice.

    After a safety briefing we donned lifejackets (folded up around our waist) and were told a bit about the whales. Sperm whales were the residents, the third largest whale and the largest with teeth that hunts other fish, squids, grouper, stingray. Some of the fish are faster than the whales but the sonar they use to hunt by can be turned up and used to stun the prey.. Orcas are seen every few weeks and dolphins too. The whales here are males, the females live closer to the equator and the younger males move to other areas to find food until they are ready to breed. The whales here are about 25-45 years old and live to about 70 years old.

    Sam, Tash and Ed went off first whilst I moved the campervan nearer. They saw several whales, including a very unusual sight of two whales fighting - they were swimming directly at each other and then veering off and te last moment - normally they just keep themselves to themselves. Tash got a good shot of the classic tail as the whale dived (they stay on the surface for about 10 minutes between dives, surfacing every half hour or so).

    They returned and I hopped in for Sam. Tash didn't want to go again as she was feeling a bit queasy so just Ed and I went. The views were great and we saw a pod of Hector's dolphins just off Kaikoura point. Then spotted our first whale, who dived quite quickly after we had seen him. Then we headed towards where the pair were seen before and they were still there swimming alongside each other. Our pilot was talking to a Whalewatch plane too who said he had seen a big pod of dolphins, which we also then flew over - there were 100's of them. We watched the two whales swimming side by side for several minutes then headed off to another single whale that we watched for a few minutes before it did the classic dive.

    So four whales altogether, lots of dolphins and then we floew over the rocks on the point on the way back and saw hundreds of seals basking.

    After landing we headed to our campsite, Top 10 Kaikoura and plugged the electric in. The van soon warmed up and we had to turn the heating right down as we were too hot! No tv signal so we watched a dvd then went to bed and all had a decent night's sleep, Tash above the cab, Ed on the drop down table bed and Sam and I on the permanent bed at the back.
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  • Day28

    Horse Riding

    August 6, 2015 in New Zealand ⋅ ☀️ 9 °C

    We checked out of the Tekapo motel just after 9. Wjilst adequate we felt this was the worst place we had stayed in to date (odd layout, not enough towels in the room etc).

    We went to look at the Church of the Good Shepherd on the shore of Lake Tekapo. It didn't open until 10 so we couldn't go in, but we took some pictures and Ed did a bit of clambering on the rocks on the lake shore. We also had a look at the dog statute, a monument to all sheep dogs and their contribution to NZ.

    Then it was off to Geraldine where we had a 12 o clock appointment with the Peel Forest Trekking Centre to do an hour's walk on horses. Tash had been led on a horse for an hour once when we were in Devon and Ed had been on a pony, Sam and I never been on one (nearest for me was donkeys on Skegness beach)

    We stopped for a coffee about half hour from Geraldine at the Brewery Cafe, which was indeed attached to a brewery. We bought a bottle of their Ginja Beer (non alcoholic), as yet untasted.

    Peel Forest was about 15km outside Geraldine and we arrived just before 12 and saw 5 horses saddled up across the paddock waiting for us. We met Toby our guide for the walk (son of he owners) and got out helmets. Toby gave us a quick demo on how to hold the rains, where to have feet in stirrups and how to control the horse by pulling on the reigns, then we got on. Me first on Ziggy and I was told to walk around the paddock in a big loop to get the hang of controlling the horse. Making him go involved digging in your feet and legs it transpired, otherwise steering was via shortening the reign on the side you wanted to go and giving a pull. Pulling both was stop (but not too much or it was backwards!). Ed got on next (Bobby), but got very scared trying to control the horse (don't forget he can't even ride a bike yet!), so Toby said he would lead him on a rope which made him feel much better. Sam got on (Tommy) and did the same as me looped around, then Tash (Spirit), who started to wail a bit and claim she didn't like it. A bit more instructions from Toby (on Moggy) and his dad Bob then we were off. The first part oft he walk was down a hill. Bit of a baptism of fire, you had to lean back and push forward on the stirrups to keep your balance. Tash continued to wail but we pressed on and once on the flat she calmed down and then started to enjoy it. The horses largely knew where they were going and followed the one in front, but they needed some control so they didn't run you into tree branches or when they stopped to eat grass or drink water! The route was a good one, across some streams and gorse land as well as forest and lasted longer than the hour, probably about 80 minutes on the horses.

    On the way round the horses met one of their brothers (Mac) who tagged along with us for a bit - they all seemed pleased to see each other. Just before going back up the hill Toby had to close the gate. Ed was left on his own and Bobby decided to start off up the hill, which scared Ed but he managed to stop Bobby and all was well again. Up the hill caused Tash and Sam's horses to break into a trot, but they hung on!. Ziggy kept stopping and looking round at me - think I was hard work to carry up! Ed declared horse riding the best thing he had done in NZ so far!

    We then posed fro some pictures on our horses and helped give them a bit of food an hang up the saddles and reigns and said our goodbyes and were off again. Back into Geraldine for lunch at the bakery, bought some famous jam from Barkers of Geraldine and some clothes for the kids for a NZ made clothes shop then headed to Christchurch, about 1.5 hours away.

    We arrived back a St James B and B almost exactly 2 weeks after we had last arrived around 5pm. Margaret the owner was out but had left us the key and we showed ourselves in, had a drink and then headed to the Harewood Tavern for tea. It was surprisingly busy and the food took a while to come but was decent when it did.

    Margaret was back when we got back and we chatted a bit about our travels, set breakfast for 8.30 and went for our last night in a solid bed for a couple of weeks - campervan tomorrow.
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  • Day27

    Blue Skies

    August 5, 2015 in New Zealand ⋅ 🌧 14 °C

    After the last tow days of cloud and torrential rain we woke up to clear blue sky and a frost - a perfect winter's day. We decided to do the 40 minute or so Kea Point walk (no Keas were seen!). We drove the couple of km to the White Horse Campsite where the trails started from. When we had planned to have a camper van for this part oft he trip I had been looking at staying here. Think it would have been ok, had a clean toilet block but no showers.

    We started the walk in the shadow of some mountains so it was a little cold, but we soon hit the sunshine and it warmed up. Sam was feeling a little under the weather so turned around about 3/4 of the way to Kea Point, the rest of us carried on. The path was icy in places with frozen puddles and fresh snow from yesterday (only half a cm or so) on the grass and path in the shade.

    Whilst Eddie had complained about walking (as ever!) he admitted it was worth it when we got to Kea point. Had great views of Mount Cook, Mount Sefton and other mountains together with the huge lateral moraine of the Muller Glacier, the glacier itself and its terminal lake. after photos we headed back to the car and set off for Tekapo.

    Sat nav was set for the Astro Cafe on the top of Mount St John at the Canterbury University observatory. We stopped at Peters Point to look back across Lake Pukaki at teh mountains around Mount Cook, said to be one of the best view points in NZ.The day was superb and the all round views from here excellent, another place where it was hard to control the number of photos taken. The blue ness of Lake Tekapo looked artificial. The food was good too, including a great curried cashew and carrot soup which we must try out at home (carrot, onion, garlic, chicken stock and cashew nuts and curry powder).

    We headed down and the short trip into Tekapo and to the Lake Tekapo Hot Pools snd Tube Park. We paid for all 4 of us to do tubing for an hour and go into the hot pools and Sam booked an hours massage.

    Straight to the tubing, where you slid down a snow slope on an inner tube (similar to the sort of thing you have at a waterpark). A school party were there so there weren't many tubes spare so Sam and I had to go down in a double - for the best as she was very nervous.

    a carpet lift carried you and your tube up to the top. The kids shot up, Sam and I less convincing with her almost falling off and bringing me down to. Anyway we made it and down we went. It was fun, got up some good speed and went high round a banked corner before hitting some plastic mats put down to slow you down and bring you to a stop. These made the end of the ride quite bumpy and I only later learned it was best to lay across the tube rather than sit in it to be easier on bottom and back.

    Sam went down 4 or 5 times before bailing out for her massage. The kida and I then went donw many times in various configurations 0 like trains holding each others feet, forward, backwards, spinning, straight, then in a ring with feet facing in. I sat out for a bit as the kids carried on. The school party had left after about 20 minutes and we had the place to ourselves. We had 2.30 written on our wristbands as our finish time when we arrived but given the lack of people we were allowed to just carry on and finally left about 3.30 after 2 and a quarter hours.

    Ed braved a flying on his stomach slide towards the end and it went well until h banged his knee on one of the slowing mats, very painful. We decided this was a good tie to finish, but not wanting to end on a bad note we all did one more train down then went off to the hot pools.

    Sam was already in them having finished her massage and wondering where we were. There were three pools, 36, 37 amd 39 degrees, the latter being adults only. We went in the coolest first then the next one. I also tried the hottest which was very relaxing. After about an hour we left and went to our motel then straight out to eat, hungry from our exertions. Went to a bar called Mackenzies. I had venison stew which was OK, but a bit tough in parts. Sam had three cuts of meat, 80g each - pork, beef and lamb. When it came the meat was cooking on a red hot stone and needed turning to be seared then pieces cutting off and left to cook on the stone before eating. Never seen that before and it didn't work that well. This was probably the worst meal we had had so far in NZ, very average.

    Back to the motel, where the room was nice but had the tv oddly in the children's bedroom with no other one anywhere. We needed to watch the final of My Kitchen Rules so had to huddle on the beds to do so.
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  • Day26

    A Quiet Day

    August 4, 2015 in New Zealand ⋅ 🌧 14 °C

    We got a call from reception at about 8.20 to say our 4wd tour at 9am had been cancelled. Unsurprising given the amount of rain that we had heard falling during the night and was still tipping down at that point. This gave us a more leisurely start to the day and we watched the rain continue to fall and some periodic flashes of lightning with rumbles of thunder. The mountains around us were virtually invisible through the clouds and rain.

    We headed up (in the car!) to the visitor centre at 10 and had a look around the museum there. The downstairs was the most interesting, with an old mountain hut, a big map of the area with buttons that lit up various locations and information on mountain rescues, including oen where two guides from the Hermitage had been trapped at the top of Mount Cook by a storm which had lasted for about 2 weeks. They sheltered in a crevasse and had a food drop after a few days and were finally rescued only after one rescue helicopter had rolled over in the stormy weather on the mountain. The guys ended up losing their legs below the knee to frostbite, but went back to climb the mountain again with prosthetic legs and one guy climbed Everest that way (we saw a picture of his black frostbitten feet in the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre).

    Pitstop for bacon sandwiches and drinks in the Old Mountaineers; Hut Cafe, then we went into the Hermitage Hotel and into the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre. This was built in 2007 after Sam and I last visited. It had various info and memorabilia about Sir Edmund Hillary and other climbers (as mentioned earlier)as well as the Hotel and the Mount Cook village region in general.

    The main attraction was the cinema/planetarium which showed short films (typically 20 minutes or so) throughout the day. We first saw the midday film which was the Magic of Mount Cook in 3D. It started with a cartoon showing how New Zealand and the mountains were formed according to Maori legend (4 brothers in a canoe hit a rock and the canoe became the land and the brothers sheltering on top became the mountains). The rest of the film was 3D shots swooping over the mountains.

    The second film we watched was on the planetarium screen (a large dome screen that was moved over the top of the seats It was called Tyco to the Moon and was about a cartoon dog who's kennel turned into a rocket and took him to the moon. The kids loved it and the planetarium dome screen effect worked very well.

    We then watched a third half hour long film about Black Holes which was interesting and explained quite a lot of the science behind black hole theory in relative simple terms, though Ed declared he did not understand a word of it!

    Lunch in the cafe (Butter Chicken pies for ed and I) then we drove back to the apartment to chill out and see if the weather would get better (it was still pouring and was sleety now).

    Weather didn't improve, but Ed and I went back to watch the 5pm film on Primeval New Zealand about the history of some of the animals. NZ originally had only 1 mammal, a bat, and was populated mainly by birds (and lizards, molluscs, insects). Evidence suggested that many of the birds including the Kiwi came originally from Australia when they had wings to fly but then rapidly evolved to suit the NZ environment. We sensed from the commentary that this was not a pleasant thought to the New Zealand folks given their rivalry with Oz! The film was 45 minutes, but very interesting and Ed was pleased he had come to see it. It had finally fined up and we could see a bit more of the mountains (though not Mount Cook), but no time to do anything as it was getting dark.

    So we headed back to the motel to cook the limited ready meals we had bought earlier. Ed and I had a risotto which was tasty but we managed to burn a layer to the bottom of the pan, tough to get off. Tash's macaroni cheese was a disaster and she ended up eating cereal.
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  • Day25

    Bungee (nearly!)

    August 3, 2015 in New Zealand ⋅ 🌧 14 °C

    We left Queenstown in the rain and drove around past Coronet Peak to Arrowtown. A tasty breakfast in the bakery cafe )good bacon and egg sandwiches, with Ed having a spicy chicken pie!).

    The rain was easing and we walked up the main street of this old gold mining town, which still looked like a street from a wild west movie. Bought a few souvenirs then had a look at the historic Chinese settlement, laid out where the Chinese gold miners used to live. They had been invited by the town elders as the European miners moved on to the West Coast and they were worried the town would die, but they were treated with scepticism and suspicion by most of the locals, similar to immigrants today. They strived to earn $100-$200 to return to Chine and buy a farm, vastly improving their life there.

    From Arrowtown we aimed for Twizel, but a few km along the rode we saw signs to the AJ Hackett Karawau Gorge bungy jump and as we were stuck behind a slow moving camper van we pulled in to atch some jumpers. We watched a single and a double jump an also watched some people going down the relatively new Zipline. Ed declared he wanted to do it, so we checked the minimum age - 8, but 8 or 9 year olds needed to ride with an adult. So Tash, Ed and I did it. The maximum weight was 150kg and we ended up having to take off shoes, jumpers and coats to get down to the limit - made for quite a cold ride!

    We got harnessed up - we did it in a sitting position rather than the full superman dive that we had seen others do. Ed was given a go-pro camera to record the trip (as was Tash) and on the count of 3 the release button was pressed and we were off. It was exhilarating, think we reached about 60km/h before hitting the end. The mechanism then cleverly spun us around and we were pulled back up to the start, uncoupled and viewed our photos and video, which we bought of course.

    We then had a couple of hours still to Twizel so sped on through the Lindis Pass that we had gon through 10 days ago from Wanaka to Oamaru and hit Twizel about 2.30. Had a pie each and some shared chips in the bakery, then bought breakfast stuff from the supermarket then headed off to Mount Cook Village about 45 minutes away. Twizel didn't have much to it (it was built in the 60's to house people working in the hydroelectric dams on nearby rivers).

    The weather was fine and we got to Mount Cook Village about 4pm. The motel was new since our last visit when we had stayed in the Hermitage Hotel. A quick walk into the Village and we booked a 4wd trip for tomorrow morning, though the weather forecast is for more rain so the trip may have to take a different route to normal as the torrential rain today had seen some tracks closed as a precaution against landslips.
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  • Day24

    Another Very Busy Day

    August 2, 2015 in New Zealand ⋅ ☀️ 8 °C

    So the day started with us wandering down to the harbour front as we were booked onto a 10 o clock cruise on the old steamship TSS (Twin Shaft Steamship) Earnslaw. We managed to d=find a kiwi magnet to replace the one Edwaqrd had bought and lost yesterday, then checked in.

    The ship was a grand thing in the style of an old train carriage. It is still steam powered with coal burning boilers which you could see via a walkway on the level above 0 we watched on the way back as the engineer shovelled in more coal to the boiler.

    The day was bright and sunny again and we sailed across the lake with the usual spectacular views of snow capped mountains (the Remarkables dominating). Ou destination was Walter's Peak High Country farm which we reached in about 35 minutes.

    The farmer met us and we went into a barn we he demonstarted how to shear a sheep, though he admitted he was a dairy farmer and his technique was slower than the proper shearers who did about 400 a day (the world record being about 38 seconds). We then went outside where his sheepdogs demonstrated their talents - Sue was a ;psycho; who ran back and foirth untilt he sheep did what she wanted, King more refined stalking and staring down th sheep (though he did draw blood on one giving it a nip on the side). The farmer said that in his prime (he was now 11) he would have been worth about $4k and the most expensive dog he had known went for about $12k. One thing I didn't know was that the dogs were not trained by the shepherd but trained by someone who specialised in this and then sold on to the farmers.

    After the dogs the kids got to feed some sheep by hand before we went off for our BBQ lunch. This was tasty with pork, chicken, beef, lamb, sausages, vegetables, salad, bread, but the best was desert with vanilla ice cream, choclate mousse, and sweets (jelly snakes, Cadbury jaffas).

    After lunch we had a half hour or so to look around the farm and the shop. The farm had sheep (both merino for wool and a meat breed for lambs) beef cattle (including a bull with ring through his nose), alpacas and red deer with some impressive antlers.

    The boat trip back was less windy than going and the views still as spectacular. We got abck at 1.30 and went to look at our Zipline photos from yesterday (we bought them all!) before returning to the harbour for our 3.00pm KJet ride. This was an hour jet boat ride and went up the Shotover river up to the point where the shotover jet comes down it. The ride was much more similar to the Clutha river one we did a week or so ago and we travelled fast and skimmed the edges. On the way back with the current we touched 90km/h and came the closest on any of our rides to thinking we were going to crash - seemed like we were only a few inches from the concrete pillar of a bridge. The ride was windy but not too cold and we did plenty of Hamilton spins - the last one just before we docked at the end making me quite wet. Ed complained because he hadn't got wet enough! The ride was over in what didn't seem like an hour and we went downstairs on the pier to a room below the kiosk where we bought the obligatory photos and also looked through the below water observation window at the large fish swimming around and also at the black ducks we had seen on the service who were diving down by the window looking for food - very funny seeing ducks swimming down alongside the fish.

    Tash was then keen to do a 12d cinema ride, so we went to the Vortex cinema. Beforehand they took some green screen shots of us on a rollercoaster, with dinosaurs and as zombies. We all acted very well and the resulting photos were very good! The cinema itself was a lot like the one we had done in the UK Cadbury World, with moving seats (including parts of he seat actually vibrating and pushing against you, wind, bubbles, water as we zipped down a rollercoaster and a space journey. These kind of rides often make me feel a bit sick so I was glad te kids were happy not to do any more at a discount price.

    The last suggestion for the day was the indoor crazy golf. We walked there (having a quick drink in a cafe about to close) then went into the golf. This was a great course, all indoors, with holes on multiple levels, runways and themed holes with areas that responded to the ball moving through and playing music. Ski lifts and the Gondola took the ball upwards on some holes. All in all probably the best course I've ever seen and well maintained too. On the last hole the ball was retained but a lollipop popped out of a dispenser for you. Ed won with Sam second, me third and Tash fourth.

    We then went to Fat Badger's, a pizza place recommended by the Zipwire guys. We ordered two 20'' takeaways - they were big but tasty and they happily did half of one without cheese for Sam.

    Queenstown has been a busy plae (Ed says its his favourite place in NZ so far which shows what kids enjoy!), but it doesn't seem like the rest of NZ which is slower placed and less active. As Tash said, it seems like a mini London with loads to do and some kind of atmosphere that makes you want to do as much as possible.

    Tomorrow we go more back to 'real' NZ at Mount Cook, with the plan to visit Arrowtown on the way.
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