10th Jan 2012 - 21st Jan 2012 - New Zealand 2012
New Zealand - January 2012
Report 1 – New Zealand’s Beautiful Southern Beaches and Hills
Greetings to one and all,
Tuesday 10th January
Good afternoon – it is only 2 pm Melb time and Hel is falling asleep! We have miles to go yet – wake up Hel.
Admittedly it was a very early start before the sun came up and the moon was ready to set – so tiredness is understandable. A lovely flight from Melb to Wellington – we both had a window seat and spare seat beside us so all is well with the world. Hel loved watching the movie Dolphin Tail??? We now have a 2 hour wait til we get a plane to Dunedin.
We are here in New Zealand to boost the economy – well that’s my story. I had hoped to volunteer somewhere in the world that is cool/cold but they made it way too difficult so we gave up and decided to help NZ (financially,) after all, they have had enough problems lately to last any country a life time.(I will look into volunteering possibly next year.)
The sun is now shining brilliantly over the very pretty Wellington Airport area – with water and hills all around.
We pondered whether we should send this letter – it’s not as though we are doing a major tour of Europe but well we will leave it to your discretion as to whether you read it all or look at the pix as we have always said – it’s your choice we won’t be upset with your choice
Well the next phase of the journey wasn’t as smooth – the plane wouldn’t work in Wellington so ultimately we had to catch another which wasn’t nearly as much an inconvenience to us as to others but we did arrive a bit later into Dunedin than expected.
As there is a stopover in Christchurch ultimately ended up being given three glasses of water 2 coffees and two lollies and two small squares of fudge for the trip – no substitute for tea and we were starving.
Got our very nice car and we were off in pursuit of supplies and dinner.
Achieved that and were allowed a pizza as by then it was 10 and the only offering. Lovely.
Arrived at our new home the place we are staying in, in Dunedin, formerly Majestic Mansions, I am pleased I discovered before I arrived is totally false in its advertising – wrong address and it infers that it faces the ocean – when in fact it is a street back and faces the other way – we are on the 3rd floor and so can see over the buildings in front to the sea.
The manager was standing out the front and vv kindly carried both suitcases to our flat. All 61 steps. It is a lovely home – indeed looking over the ocean with loud crashing noises and in the morning – surfies – what more could Hel need.
After working on sorting out the computer etc went to bed v tired but happy.
A beautiful morning for eating breaky, watching surfies and pottering. I have decided that the fewer times I have to negotiate the steps the better so we left this morning at 11 for a chronically lost tour of Dunedin. (Hel calls it cruising, and she reckons she knew roughly where she was.)
We did manage to find Signal Hill, a lovely lookout over Dunedin, and the Botanical Gardens, and drove through Douglas Miller’s early stomping ground, but didn’t go near Dinah R’s because it was on the other side of town.
We knew the afternoon trip – the Taieri Gorge tour went from the very ornate Dunedin Railway Station a splendid architectural number even if it mightn’t be your taste. So having found a car parking space we had lunch – mine was lovely – Hel defied the chef and regretted her choice of chowder- way too spicy and basically not even nice.
Then over to our train for a lovely trip - 4 hours thru the Taieri gorge in a train specifically set up for the purpose –everything you could want really good viewing thru the roof and the ability to stand between the carriages etc and with an excellent commentary somewhat lost by a group of American tourists planning their next 5 trips and discussing the last 5. And I thought we had got rid of these folk 30 years ago – sadly no.
When we returned it was past work time - the ideal time to do several circuits of the octagon - a mini Canberra with circular roads lovely focus.
Dinner on the way home to organize the energy to climb to our home in the sky.
Rained during the night which we took as normal but there are great signs of lack of water - looks a bit like Melbourne a couple of years ago with dead grass – so hopefully this will brighten everything up.
Thursday 12th – Well we are feeling so pleased with ourselves – we have been swimming in the sea baths. The winning feature is that they are heated! Extraordinary – electrically heated to 28 degrees. With a lovely coffee shop overlooking the waves – this town, St Clair is an excellent holiday destination.
After recuperating we left for Larnach Castle - an impressive model indeed not that we went into the castle. We concentrated on the gardens and the ballroom which serves a lovely lunch. There are two cruise boats in town today and everyone is on top of their game awaiting international guests.
Dunedin is a very hilly city surrounding many waterways and we could see one of our previous cruise line boats – a Celebrity ship in port – very pretty.
After enjoying the gardens we headed off on the scenic route (lost) to Natures Wonders. NW do tours in jeep type vehicles up and down vv steep hills at rapid speed – a boy thing but great fun, but this is all in the name of an ecological tour to see the very few remaining yellow eyed penguins and the not so endangered New Zealand seal and also shags/cormorants. I have been very lucky in the past to see thousands and thousands of penguins at very close range and it isn’t quite the same to see 2 penguins on a hill but better seen thru binocs! However the very baby seals were ever so cute as they struggled to climb the rocks whilst the long suffering mums rested.
After our trip we headed back along the coast road to Dunedin and then tried a new way home via the Rotary Lookout and then descended to the beach of Ocean Grove and a short drive back to St Clair. After dinner Hel went for a walk along our beach – well not on the beach itself as it is rarely without water and at high tide the waves crash against the wall. So I guess she walked on the path above the water.
Fri and we are now in a beautiful little cabin at The Catlins. The Catlins being south of Dunedin is in a ‘natural’ area with rivers lakes beautiful green hills and sheep etc and no phone access and what the hell is going on at the cricket – this is all so wrong!
But back to this morning - we rose to a damp morning and after looking wan, Gavin came and sorted out most of the “suitcase to car” operation. We headed straight out of town being guided by a sat nav system which means we probably get there but have little idea of how and where we have been. Lunch at Owaka a splendid little town just bursting with civic pride. I regret to inform you that Hel went to their museum and enjoyed it! They had short films on ship wrecks and space devoted to discussing their long time residents including our hosts at Mohua Park – all very interesting.
Drove onto our new home and made the main late arvo activity – clothes washing – there were no facilities in Dunedin, so there was much to be done. Unfortunately our cabin now resembles a laundry as we attempt to dry everything – I gave up with the dryer cos starvation was about to set in.
Tis now 9.30 and the light is beginning to fade – it never was bright today anyway – but the dusk time seems so much longer here. Lovely.
Some 23 hours later on Saturday evening. We have just had our pie and soup at home after a BIG day. And a couple of hours later, we are watching a rather pretty sunset.
Very very windy night last night – the house nearly took off – but no we were still anchored at dawn. Some rain which was dried off by the wind. After breaky headed along the coast road dropping in to a number of ‘advised spots’ – needed to be at the Purakaunui Falls in the morning sun which we did –excellent falls.
Onto morning tea to two of the most miserable people who had chosen the wrong job – got our coffee from a machine and sat outside at the only table on offer – such hospitality when they have a cornered market. There are very few eating spots on this road.
Next a stop at the oddest place, the Lost Gypsy– man made toys and gizmos made from junk by the owner all quirky and clever. No kids allowed so all the adults playing like kids – very clever.
Lots of stops to look at the views of Tautuku Bay. All these names are a nightmare!
Onto the’ Whistling Frog’ for lunch – who greeted us with open arms – how utterly sensible! And Hel could check the email which is not readily possible in the Catlins area.
Onto Curio Bay and Porpoise Bay – in Curio Bay is a fossil forest area which is visible at low tide right next door to a stunning beach area which is home to Hector’s dolphins of which we saw a number swimming in the shallows.
Checked out Niagara Falls – a place that is dwarfed by Dights Falls in Melbourne. And then a walk along a boardwalk through a wet land.
A very rounded tour – rounded out by some magic really – the car radio turned itself on and just in case this was some emergency we checked the stations only to hear the dulcet tone of Geoff Lawson! He was commentating the Cricket Test from the WACA against India. An AM station who takes live sport – so we heard part of the morning session – the good part - until a 20/20 game started in NZ. That has just finished and Hel has been running out to the car to check the score – only now to note the NZ game is over and we are all out!
We will sign off from here and hopefully send this out from Te Anau tomorrow evening……
Best wishes from Bev (and Helen)
Report 2 - Did they leave the best 'til last?:
Sunday 15th January
Good evening on this most beautiful Sunday in Te Anau – another very pretty sunset. Admittedly weather in NZ is a moment by moment proposition – quite a number of showers thru the day which have caused no problems at all.
When we booked in here the chap asked where we had travelled from –I was at a loss to remember – the little home at the Catlins is now a lifetime away. We left there at 9 and headed across the same main road to the west and had coffee at the ever welcoming Frog place and then on to unchartered (by us) roads to Invercargill. After lunch I left Hel at the computer – yes Invercargill have reception and everything. I went to a department store and got some thermal underwear for later this year. It was a sale and gives you an idea of weather in Invercargill.
Heading west still we stayed by the coast for as long as we could before heading inland towards Te Anau. Had a coffee at Colac Bay overlooking the sea before abandoning same.
It takes very little time before snow capped mountains come into view – really beautiful. Kept on driving until we got to Manapouri to check out the deal for tomorrow and then had a coffee before heading into Te Anau. Once we got here everything changed – busy with a capital B. Big bus of Chinese folk on their way out for a tour, Indian couple checking in, etc etc.
Large hotel and nearly full – and we were fairly confident we were the only people on the roads south of here!
Washing done with great efficiency and Hel worked on sending out version 1 letter.
We need to sort our stuff into lots at the moment – we are only allowed an overnight bag tomorrow – so mess everywhere – but clean mess.
Well this is the life – we have just had some very delicious soup and roll at 5.30pm to tide us over until 7. 30 dinner aboard the Fiordland Navigator cruise boat on Doubtful Sound. It has been a beautiful weather day – very still and some clouds but plenty of sun and no rain in an area known for rain.
I had decided that many of the trees were a brown colour naturally, but no they are thirsty!
Back to the morning – we had cereal out of a cup this morning and packed our overnight bag and headed out to explore Te Anau. Boy has it grown in the past 20 years. Motel after motel of people doing much of what we are doing – trips on the Sounds etc.
I bought a pair of gum boots for the Arctic and after morning tea we went on a short stroll along the lake.
Then drove on into Manapouri to embark on our adventure. Got our picnic lunch and sat with all our new friends and ate lunch whilst waiting for the adventure to begin. Eventually boarded a spiffy new boat and went for about a half hour before disembarking and sending half the people for a tour of the power station whilst we headed over the mountain on a road built for the construction of the underground power station. Upon arriving at Deep Cove we boarded the Navigator. After introductions we were taken to our rooms a twin room with en-suite – excellent room. Back for some obviously well earned muffin and coffee. Out on deck while the captain and naturalist gave us heaps and heaps of info on what we were seeing. Some way down the sound we abandoned the big boat for tenders in our case or for 20 or so brave soul’s kayaks and spent then next40 minutes exploring at much closer quarters the plant life and rock formation of the area.
Back on board it was nearly time for soup service which was held at 5.30 so they could fit in some of the outside activities they wanted us to enjoy. The boat made its way to the ocean – as we go to the ocean there was a distinct change in weather conditions – bright and sunny and of course it got much rougher. Visited a seal colony a place of great action –new babies being born and therefore male seals awaiting the opportunity to impregnate the females as soon as she had given birth! What a life.
After enjoying the waves and seals for a while headed back down the sound which meant it was nearly time for our buffet dinner. An excellent meal which we shared with a Canadian psychiatrist and his wife who are coming to study/work in Melbourne. We had just finished dinner when it was time to adjourn to the lounge for a slideshow talk on many aspects of the history of the area/weather etc.
A very interesting evening – and I just love being told stuff – so sorry when it was over but we then discovered it was quite late and time to retire to our staterooms.
Tis Tuesday evening after another wonderful day. The sun sets so very late and we have just finished dinner and a cruise around the streets of Queenstown watching the sun set – but now its 10 pm – how did the day go?
Well for a start we got up ever so early cos breaky was served between 7 and 8 on our lovely home. The meals are just excellent – buffet of everything you could want. They don’t let you linger for long though – there are things to see out on deck. This morning was going to be fine as a high sits right over us – but it was really quite misty and very pretty. The special moment was when the captain put the boat in a lovely spot and turned the engines off and we were to stay still no cameras and just enjoy the quiet for 5 minutes and being told this is just as it has been for many many years with the exception of the dreadful loss of birds to possums/stoats etc.
Engines back on, we motored back to meet our bus who retuned us to the next boat etc………. a well timed and executed program. A brilliant trip – do it if you get the chance!
Picked up our car and headed towards Queenstown – by now the high is seriously over head the temperature is up to 24. Sun shining brightly on a beautiful day. Apart for one stop for lunch where Hel enjoyed a ’mousetrap’ a NZ specialty it seems! Made of toast and topping of cheese and relish and mince meat? Not sure as the only flavor was the spicy relish.
We continued on and for the last significant period followed Lake Wakatipu around – like a great ocean road around a flat ocean! We are staying in an older hotel but we have the accom we want with a kitchen and two bedroom areas – perfect. We have both been to Queenstown before i.e. about 25 years ago for Bev and 40 years for Hel. Well things have changed - boy have they changed - the steamship Earnslaw is still doing trips on the lake but the accom expansion is enormous. As we sat having a coffee in the mall it had something in common with Cavill Ave in Surfers Paradise some years ago.
We drove around trying to get our bearings and enjoying the scenery well Bev was; Hel was trying to avoid being a traffic accident.
Late dinner downtown after sorting out how to use the computer and washing. Lovely Thai dinner overlooking the lake and the thousands of people out enjoying the evening.
Wednesday – in beautiful Queenstown – the weather is just beautiful. Have decided to go on the Earnslaw for the 8pm cruise something I vowed I wouldn’t do!
We have had a great day – got the chairlift to the top of the mountain in preparation for our zip trek tour – I had suggested this to Hel before we left and she didn’t answer for several days hoping I had come to my senses – but no here she was all booked into a flying fox tour that lasted 2 hours – what was I thinking! It was great fun being dressed up in a harness and clipped over a steel line and let fly – screaming thru the trees for some upside down but for us more likely just hanging on for all we were worth and in Hel’s case with her eyes closed! 4 separate lines interspersed with a chat about sustainability and our part in it. When we safely made it to the end we then had to walk back up the mountain – they know how to make mountains here.
Feeling pleased with ourselves we had lunch at the coffee shop/restaurant there – the whole concern is just immense - luge, mountain bike riding, bungy jumping, etc etc.
We then went and bought a pic of ourselves and bought an ice cream to have in the very pretty botanical gardens. We had thought of going to Wanaka but it is just too late to fit in so that’s how we got to be going on Earnslaw tonight. Well it was a pleasant evening – we went out with 5 passengers on a boat that holds 400- so a bit lonely sufficient that Hel gave in to the girl selling our photo - well it was such a good deal – a bad photo made into a big photo, a calendar, a CD, a key ring and 3 post cards and steak knives. Guess what you are getting for Christmas? But just think – this is all part of our volunteerism/contribution to the NZ economy!
We called in to the homestead and spent 20 mins wandering the very pretty garden but more importantly picking up 150 people who had gone there earlier for dinner. On our return trip we were sitting at the wrong end of the boat so missed the sing-along! Got home quite late, ready for a good night’s sleep.
It has been a lovely day but I am much too busy to write about it. We have foxtel and the 20/20 match from the G is on live and I need to watch it.
But apart from that we got up earlyish and noted that the forecast for the south island was all cloud – however as the day has gone on – that was entirely wrong and it has been a warm and windy day with threats of storms from the mountains which never happened.
We left Queenstown to go to Wanaka - a highly recommended spot. Stopped at Cardrona for morning tea having taken the mountain route. What a strange little place but it was all happening – everyone stopped for a drink at the Cardrona Pub.
Then moved on to Wanaka – well probably this is a delightful spot normally but today was not normal – Saturday is the triathlon and there were thousands of people in all the coffee shops discussing tactics and on the roads everywhere. We had lunch and took some photos as we could only park for 30 mins and left for Twizel. A very pretty drive altogether – surrounded at some stages by mountains. Found our motel without issue –it isn’t a very large town. After a short break set off for Lake Tekapo. Via Lake Pukaki which has a now defunct tourist info place which gives you the opportunity of seeing Mt Cook – well no it wasn’t there – many many other mountains but Mt Cook under cloud. So on to Tekapo which Hel remembers as a beautiful aqua coloured lake with an old wooden church and a youth hostel…. Well 40 years is a long time apparently - today quite an upmarket town with lots of accom for ski season and now, and quite a large range of restaurants. Had dinner there for Hel a rack of lamb (her favourite meal) in a restaurant overlooking the lake - all very enjoyable. The only thing that was wrong was the church – Hel remembers as wooden with lots of windows which now appears to be petrified and called historical – she is now feeling very old.
As we came home it was a beautiful evening but even so didn’t allow us a view of Mt Cook – so maybe it doesn’t exist – we have one more day to find it.
When we got home we were full of good intentions about what to do but when we discovered the cricket was live from the ‘G’ that was that………………..
Got to bed way too late but at least we got to see Melb Stars win.
Friday night in Dunedin (Fri 20th)
Well we had a wonderful day today –and my feet may never work again.
Got up in time to make a timely start towards Mt Cook. It was sunny so that was a great start. And as we rounded the corner from the motel – there it was Mt Cook behind a tin shed. We jumped out of the car and got a pic in case that was a one off – but no it stayed with us for hours. Totally blue sky and therefore with it a shiny mountain.
There were people all along the road taking pix.
Drove onto the mountain and announced ourselves to the activities desk at the Hermitage a very beautiful hotel indeed.
Had morning tea before meeting our new friends at 11 for a short bus ride to a ‘walk’. This was where things started looking tricky when he said they expected a reasonable level of fitness! I cringed and pretended I fell into that category – no-one was fooled. The bus ride was up a glacial valley to a dump of moraine. Then the walk - the walk in fact was lovely except they wanted it done in what I consider half the appropriate amount of time!
Anyway made it to the lake’s edge so hooray they can’t leave me now! Went in 3 zodiacs to look at the trapped icebergs and check out the different types and enjoy some for morning tea. Then our driver had a lovely time driving fast and getting everyone drenched – a lot of fun and as it was a beautiful warm day it just didn’t matter – as opposed to yesterday when the waves were high due to the wind and no-one enjoyed the experience. A totally lovely experience in the blue milky water.
Back at the jetty – it was ‘pick up the pack and keep walking’. Hel meandered between me and the group just to ensure they didn’t leave me – got there last but got there.
Back to the hotel for lunch – lots of groups there going on hikes and other activities. By now the mountain was beginning to cloud over. This is an excellent hotel to just sit on the balcony with a drink. (coffee of course!)
Reluctantly decided to leave as we had 340k’s to drive – I am sure I could see the mountain disappear whilst we were leaving the park.
It’s a lovely drive home on a perfect afternoon. Got back to Dunedin at 8.30 and by now my feet don’t work, sadly, so it’s probably just as well we have to leave tomorrow. And besides when I got in the lift a chap told me not to eat the food here and then we only have one chair and one spoon . The hotel as always was chosen by me. This one for functionality, not as a ‘resort’, is going to get us thru the night but that’s it!
Sat 21st January – the day to return home – good sleep and breaky - cereal eaten out of cups – but I have now finished all my coffee so it is definitely time to leave.
Added by Helen – We arrived home on time, but that nearly didn’t happen! We got to the airport at Dunedin to see our flight had been cancelled. Just as well we were very early as the alternative was to fly via Christchurch, rather than direct to Wellington – and we were to board in 5 minutes! Poor Bev – no time for cappuccino or extra breaky – but we made up for it in Christchurch. It also meant less time to get the photos ready for this letter and that is my excuse for the lateness of sending it.
It has been an excellent holiday – yesterday was definitely a ‘high’ but probably for its variety the Doubtful Sound overnight cruise probably comes in at the top. But not everything can be at the top or there is no top (it is way too early for a caffeine deprived brain).
Does everyone else fear being forced to open their suitcase by customs etc on a return trip when all they will find is a case full of dirty clothes?!!
For now thanks Hel (and Bev) and to those of you who have read on thanks a lot.
Til next time