Day 14: What goes around comes around

Day 14: What goes around comes around
Christchurch, New Zealand

Christchurch, New Zealand


Motel restaurant coffee is rarely good, and today’s was no exception. We decided to stop along the way for a further caffeine fix. After a couple of false starts, we stopped in Rolleston, which is, I guess, a newish outer suburb of Christchurch, or satellite town or whatever it is. The coffee was better anyway.

We decided to go to Lyttelton, because we had time and it was on our original list of places to have a look at. It was supposed to have some nice little shops and be a pretty, scenic place. We had a look around but didn’t see anything that made the trip worth it. Slabs thought that the tunnel to get there was the highlight of that trip. Maybe we missed the good bits.

Back on the road to Christchurch, where our trip started just two short weeks ago, for our last afternoon in New Zealand.

We parked in one of the public car parks that must have once been a building, but is now just rocks, and went for a walk. We wanted to have a look at the Re:START mall, which we saw briefly last time, which is the mall made from shipping containers. It’s very bright and there are lots of cool shops and little food outlets. After spending a bit of money, we were ready for lunch. Slabs and Kramstable chose an outlet whose EFTPOS only took local cards (like, what kind of a thing is that? How does a freaking EFTPOS terminal know where your card is from? Why does it matter? Why would you have a payment option that international tourists can’t use?), so that wiped the last of my New Zealand currency out.

I had lunch at a Mexican restaurant nearby, which was really good (and they did take my card).

After lunch we went to the motel – the same one we’d stayed at the first night we arrived – to check in and chill the last of our New Zealand beers. We’d thought about doing the jet boat, but decided on something a bit more relaxing instead, and booked a ride on the River Avon punts. It was a lovely way to wind up our trip, with a 30 minute ride up and down the river, with a very finely dressed young punter to tell us about the river and all about punting. I could get used to that.

The boat ride was over all too soon, and it was time to do a test run to the motel where we’d be dropping off the rental car in the morning – if we’d known that’s where we’d have to return it when we were booking accommodation, we’d have booked there for tonight and dropped off the car tonight, but not to worry. It was easy to find, and their staff would shuttle us to the terminal once we’d dropped the car off.

Back to the room to start packing. We had dinner at a restaurant in a motel a couple of blocks away rather than go back into town, and then all we had to do was set an alarm, a backup alarm and another backup alarm (just in case) for 3.30 am. We also have a wake-up call booked.

Hooray?

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Day 13: Another travelling song

Day 13: Another travelling song
Ashburton, New Zealand

Ashburton, New Zealand


I can now add “cafe that offers its customers sunglasses to block out the early morning sun” to the list of places I’ve been in New Zealand. This was the Kitchen Table, just up from our motel in Dunedin, and we had a fabulous breakfast and a couple of coffees there before setting off up the highway for the final leg of our trip.

I really wanted to stay in Dunedin. There’s so much more I want to see, places to explore and things to do. And the more we travelled up the highway the more I know I have to come back to this part of the country.

Our first stop was the Steampunk HQ in Oamaru, about an hour out of Dunedin. Very cool. The ultimate trash to treasure exhibit. I loved it.

I’d love to have been able to have spent more time in Oamaru as well, but we couldn’t, and our next stop was Timaru, for lunch.

We’d originally planned on staying in Timaru today on our way back to Christchurch, but we hadn’t been able to find any accommodation. It seems like a lovely town, and we wondered if it was to Christchurch what Batemans Bay is to Canberra because it’s a similar distance away.

We’d spoken about Teppanyaki with Kramstable a few days ago, and he thought it sounded really cool. Eagle-eyed restaurant spotter me saw a Japanese Teppanyaki bar while we were driving round the town, so we decided that would be a great idea for lunch. It was really good. Well spotted me!

About an hour up the road is Ashburton, where we’d managed to find a motel room for the night. On the way those apparition-like mountains reappeared totally out of the
blue. There must be few places on the South Island you can’t see them.

Going to Ashburton meant a longer drive than we’d wanted today, but on the plus side we’ll have more time in Christchurch tomorrow, the last day of our holiday. It’s hard to believe we’re this close to going home. We’ve seen so much and done so much, and missed so much!

We had dinner in the motel and are currently making sure we don’t have any excess beers to take home with us!

Day 12: Dunedin days

Day 12: Dunedin days
Dunedin, New Zealand

Dunedin, New Zealand


Dunedin. I love it. I’m currently sitting here drinking my very last Wanaka Beerworks Cardrona working out how I can stay here and not go home.

OK I know that’s not going to happen.

We had a great day. This is the only place apart from Christchurch that we haven’t been part of an endless stream of tourists. In fact we probably stand out because we are tourists!

Our first activity this morning was the Otago Museum. It was really cool. There was so much we didn’t see that we would have loved to have seen and could easily have spent the whole day there. Our main focus was the kids activity area, with a lot of interactive science things that Kramstable (and we) loved.

The main attraction was the butterfly enclosure, which was the only part of the museum we had to pay to get into. It’s a 30 degree tropical house (so not that much warmer than the outside temperature today) with heaps of butterflies and some small birds.

One of the highlights was the release of some of the newly emerged butterflies. When they emerge from their cocoons, they sit for a while until their wings dry so that they can fly. We saw quite a few newly emerged butterflies in the incubation house. The staff in the butterfly house check them over and then if they’re ok, put them into a basket and release them at various times during the day.

After the heat got too much for us, we went back to the main part of the museum and had a look at some of the exhibits about the Maori and the other people of the Pacific. Some of the other highlights were the Sir Edmund Hillary exhibit and the World War I nurses exhibition. Two hours was definitely not enough.

The museum is close to the Otago University, which had been subject to the threat of a mass shooting today, so there was an increased police presence in the area, but most people seemed to be going about business as usual. I think the bigger concern would have been high temperatures and forecast strong winds, and the associated fire risks.

After our museum visit we headed out to the Otago Peninsula to Larnach Castle. It’s very cool. It’s New Zealand’s only castle – technically not a castle but a manor house – apparently it was the thing in those days to make your home took like a castle, which is what William Larnach did in 1871 when he built this place.

It’s now owned by the Barker family, who have restored it and opened it to the public – all the entrance fees go towards maintenance and further restoration. It’s a fascinating place, and Kramstable was really excited to be here because he’d never been to a castle before.

It’s a great building and the views from the tower are wonderful. The gardens are also amazing, very well maintained and there’s even an Alice in Wonderland section. We had lunch in the Ballroom Cafe; the Ballroom was built by Mr Lanarch for his one of his daughters for her 21st birthday.

After lunch we drove back to Dunedin (a drive with spectacular views) to have a look at Baldwin Street, the world’s steepest street. With temperatures at 26 degrees we decided we weren’t going to climb up to the top. Just looking at it was exhausting, so we headed back to the motel.

It then cooled down abruptly. A bit of time to wander around the city and take photos of the beautiful buildings (in the rain, which hopefully assisted the fire fighters). Oh and call into the Green Man Brewery.

We had dinner at a Scottish restaurant called Scotia, which was a definite improvement on last night’s dinner. I wish we could stay longer in Dunedin, but it’s not going to happen this time. I know now that I have to come back!

Day 11: On the road again

Day 11: On the road again
Dunedin, New Zealand

Dunedin, New Zealand


We left a very cold Te Anau in the morning to arrive in a very warn Dunedin mid-afternoon.

We took the 94 hghway back to Mossburn, where the turn off to Queenstown is, and continued through Lumsden (where we had coffee), Gore and Balclutha, where we stopped for lunch. We stopped at a cafe, where the meal prices were pretty much the same as pub lunches, the meals weren’t as good and there were more pre-school children in the room.

Leaving Gore we finally lost sight of the snow-topped mountains that we’d been seeing for the past week. Where it seemed unreal to be seeing them for the first time last Monday, it was kind of strange to leave them behind today.

We arrived in Dunedin at about 3.00 and checked in to the motel. Where we are is just outside The Octagon, has a lounge room and two bedrooms, much to Kramstable’s delight.

We went for a walk and it felt weird. Everywhere else we’ve been has been over-run by tourists. Dunedin is a much bigger place with a lot fewer tourists, and I felt really obviously out of place. It’s also only the second place on our while trip we’ve seen someone smoking.

We found a nice old bar that had beer on hand pumps, and the owner’s young daughter came over to Kramstable and offered him some toys to play with. We tried a couple of beers we hadn’t had before and then headed back to the motel before going out for dinner. All I’ll say about that is since when do you have to pay extra to get real Parmesan cheese on a pasta dish.

We’re looking forward to exploring the city some more tomorrow.

Day 10: No time no place to talk about the weather

Day 10: No time no place to talk about the weather
Te Anau, New Zealand

Te Anau, New Zealand


Everything was go for our trip to Milford Sound this morning. We’d been checking the weather for this day ever since we’d arrived and it was going to be the only day with decent weather for at least three days either side. We’d confirmed with the tour guide and were getting picked up at 8.05.

We woke up at 6.00 to get ready in time and were getting excited. This was going to be one of the highlights of our trip and everything was working out.

Only at 7.00 our phone rang. It was the motel owner telling us that the Milford Sound road was closed – not because of the weather, but because of trees on the road after yesterday’s winds. He said he could try and get us onto a Doubtful Sound tour, which would be a bigger group (45 compared to 8 on the Milford tour), would cost more, and would involve a short bus ride, an hour boat ride, an hour bus ride and then a 3-hour cruise on Doubtful Sound. We didn’t know what else to do at such short notice, so told him to go ahead.

We had an extra hour to wait, as this tour didn’t leave until 9.00. The bus took us to Lake Manapouri, and we had about an hour trip across it to where the power station is. Apparently it can produce enough power for the whole of the South Island, so it must be huge. According to the brochure there had been plans to raise the level for the power station, but the fledgling New Zealand environment movement saved the area form damming in the 1970s.

It’s a massive lake, and very very deep – over 400 metres.

Once we got to the other end, we hopped onto another bus for a 22 km trip along the Wilmot Pass Road, which had been built in the 1960s for the power station. This took an hour, rising to 671 metres above sea level. There were some spectacular views. On the way down the gradient is 1:1.5, which is seriously steep. Our bus driver reassured us that the bus’s brakes were checked every six months and that they were due for a check “tomorrow”.

Finally, we arrived at Deep Cove, the start of the Doubtful Sound cruise. We were lucky with the weather, and had great views all the way. We travelled almost out to the coast where the Tasman Sea meets the coastline of New Zealand. If we’d kept going we would have hit the Australian coast somewhere south of Sydney.

I’d like to say I had a wonderful time, but today has taught me I’m not good on small-ish boats on choppy waters, and I spent a lot of the time on the boat wishing I was anywhere but there. So… yes I’m glad I got the opportunity to see this wild area – it was really beautiful – but I really didn’t enjoy it.

I also learned the reason we’ve seen hardly any road kill in New Zealand – this is something that I noticed on our second day heading out of Christchurch, in complete contrast to Tasmania. This is because they don’t have any roadkill targets. The only mammal native to New Zealand is the bat – hardly a target on the roads – so the animals that are going to get squashed on the roads are the introduced species like possums, and there are so many of them here, eating all the vegetation that their native birds need, that running over them is encouraged. (Slabs bought a t-shirt the other day with the slogan “Possums: New Zealand’s little speed humps” and now I understand it.)

I’m glad we did it, but this isn’t an experience I’m in any rush to repeat. I’m keeping both feet on solid ground for the rest of the trip.

Day 8: Freaking out in Queenstown

Day 8: Freaking out in Queenstown
Queenstown, New Zealand

Queenstown, New Zealand


Queenstown is beautiful, but mega-touristy. It reminded me of Strahan but times 100. We got petrol. It cost $112 to fill a 70 litre tank. I’ve never paid more than $100 for a tank of petrol before. Eeep!

We had a list of cool things that might be fun to do today. We’d already checked out the gondola and luge last night, and decided that was one thing we had to do. We weren’t sure how the weather would hold up, so we thought we’d do that first. It was a fairly short walk from our motel to the gondola station, where we bought tickets for the gondola and 10 luge rides – which was actually cheaper than getting nine rides. We figured we’d sort out who would do what rides once we got up there.

The gondola ride was pretty cool. Great views of Queenstown. We had coffee at the top before heading over to the luge. We had to pick out our helmets first and then jump on the chairlift to the top of the hill where the luge started.

When you go on the luge, you have to start off on the blue track, which is the scenic track that is suitable for anyone over 110 cm. Kramstable and I could do this one! Before your first ride you get some instructions on how to manoeuvre the luges, so that you have a vague idea of what you’re doing before heading off down the track. It was heaps of fun!

We did two runs together (sort of) on the blue run, then Kramstable and I did a last run on the blue (he was too short for the red run), while Slabs braved the red run. We generously decided to let him have our last ride on the red run, while we had a walk around and found a photo vantage point along the run. We then spent a seriously stupid amount of money on photos of us on the luge because we couldn’t take any ourselves, and it’s not like we’ll be back any time soon to do it again. (This excuse can justify anything!)

Back down the hill (mountain?) on the gondola and onto the Fear Factory – New Zealand’s scariest haunted house – which Kramstable had been looking forward to all trip and way before we even left. He and Slabs had been onto their website and found out everything about it. It was pretty much all Kramstable had been talking about since he’d found out about it. He was so excited! I was pretty much terrified that I’d be the one to call “chicken” and be pulled out and wasn’t even sure I wanted to go in.

However, I wasn’t going to let a 9 year old defeat me, so I took a deep breath and went in. It was pretty cool. I think being at the back was an advantage because the horrors that sprang out got Slabs, who was in the lead, first. I say no more. Go do it yourself. Kramstable was terrified. We survived.

We had lunch at the Atlas Beer Cafe because beer. It has a hand pump. It has nice beers and does good food.

After lunch we went to the XD Dark Ride, which is two different experiences – a 3D roller coaster where we went through a canyon and I hate rolller coasters so why the hell did I agree to do this, and a 3D Zombie killing game (Kramstable picked the game from a choice of three), and yours truly is such an awesome zombie shooter that I won. It might be the first time I have, or will, ever win a shooting game, so you need to mark this day somewhere.

Finally (exhausted and dreading the credit card bill) we went to the Odyssey Sensory Maze, which we’d found out about last night. That was heaps of fun and really cool. If you like balloons and mirrors you’ll love it!

During the afternoon I managed to get some updates on the AFL grand final. Two years overseas on Grand Final day, two wins to the Hawks. Where am I going to go next September to keep the winning steak going?

We had a really nice Malaysian dinner at Madam Woo (fabulous laksa), found the perfect tacky souvenir and headed back to the motel room to read the Famous Five with Kramstable.

Day 7: Queenstown

Day 7: Queenstown
Queenstown, New Zealand

Queenstown, New Zealand


Wanaka, like Greymouth, was a stopover on the way somewhere else, but somewhere I could quite happily have spent more time. Today we had to get to Queenstown, which was only about an hour away, for another two-night stay.

Our motel had the worst design feature ever: a window in the wall between the bed and the bathroom, so if anyone goes into the bathroom in the middle of the night and turned the light on, it wakes sleeping people up. What were they thinking?

We had breakfast in the motel cafe, and then checked out. We went for a walk by Lake Wanaka, and Kramstable found the playground.

Slabs’s workmates told him we had to go to Arrowtown on our way to Queenstown, so that was our first stop. The views on the road down the mountain were spectacular, and we could see Queenstown in the distance. It was like coming into our Queenstown except the town was further away, the hills were higher, there was snow and there were trees! Stunning drive.

It’s a cute little gold rush village with lots of little boutique shops and cafes. We’d heard there was a brewery there, but couldn’t find it. We asked someone in the shop where we thought it should be, and she said there had been a brewery but it had closed and the owner had moved to Invercargill. So to the people who maintain the http://www.beertourist.co.nz website, it needs an update!

The lady in the shop said if we like craft beer we should go to the Fork and Tap Ale House up the street, where you can do tasting. For $14 you can choose four of the 17 craft beers they have on tap in a tasting paddle. Four from 17! How tough a choice!

For the record my beers were:
Hefe by Tuatara (Bavarian Wheat Beer – 3 stars)
Dr Funk (a very citrussy sour beer by Doctors Orders and Funk Estate – 4 stars)
Old Ale by Tuatara and Pomeroys (a joint brew – 3.5 stars, very bitter)
A Great Justice Coconut Porter by Kereu (yum! 4 stars)

After lunch we drove the final 12 kilometres (I think) to Queenstown, found our motel amongst the throng of tourists that were all over the streets, and settled in for an afternoon of washing. The motel has great views over Lake Wakatipu, which is probably the best thing going for it. Basic as it is it’s clean and seems relatively quiet.

Tomorrow we’re hoping for the forecast rain to hold off (again) so that we can do some fun outdoor things, as well as some indoor things that Kramstable is looking forward to, including a haunted house, which he’s been talking about all trip.