Sunday, September 9, 2012

Day 1 - Gold Coast - Christchurch

Given how late I left packing for this holiday (who am I kidding – that is how I do things like packing to go on holiday) unlike Al who had things organised ages before me, this morning I was a bit like a headless chook at times – sort of felt like I was chasing my tail – going into rooms and forgetting why I went there.

K had to work and so was going to ask to do 10 min breaks which generally would mean she would be finished by about 1.30.  We got a message saying she was only finishing at 2pm.  We were already in the carpark (we were more than a little early !!!) – so we chatted and waited and waited and waited.  Poor bugger came running down the hill at about 2.45 – so upset because she was late but luckily we are understanding parents who have worked more than our share of jobs where we don’t control what time things happen.  We still had more than enough time to stop at Grill’d for a late lunch early dinner as we weren’t getting a meal on the plane.

She dropped us at the airport and said she wouldn’t come in with us – I had thought she would be keen to stay just to make sure we actually left but maybe she realised we were too excited about going and there was no way we weren’t going to leave !!!  Anyway, she kissed us, jumped in the car and headed off to two weeks at home with no parents nagging her to do anything (although I did send emails and sms’s reminding her about what she needed to do and to make sure that, whatever she did while we were away, was cleaned up, put away or fixed before we got back !!)
Waiting to board

Sunset as we are leaving

Our plane

We had an uneventful flight and were able to get exit row seats which is always good because of the extra leg room – in this case I wasn’t sure there was extra leg room to go with the responsibility of manning the exits but Al assured me that, had we been in the other rows, we would have had even less leg room.

We arrived in Christchurch about 20 mins early so picked up our car and headed for the hotel.  The lady at Hertz said that Arthur’s Pass was clear and that they weren’t expecting anymore snow until possibly the end of next week.  For some reason when she asked how many drivers there would be I said 1, so Al is going to have to do all the driving while we are here(which is generally what happens anyway but if for some reason he hadn’t wanted to drive, he was stuck driving anyway !!)
Our Rav 4 - a really good ride for us

The silver fern in Al's coffee 
We found our hotel without too much trouble – man, it was cold outside.  Think the car said it was 4deg outside !!!!!  The hotel was toasty warm although not sure what temp – said to Al that it would have been good to know how warm it was so that we knew what temp to set other heaters when we used them !!!!

We watched some of the Olympics and went to sleep at about 1am.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Day 2 - Christchurch - Fox Glacier

We woke up and looked out the window and it was misty and eerie and looked exactly like it had when we had been in Washington and been at the Vietnam Memorial.  Packed up the car and headed off to look for breakfast.  Found a centre called The Hub and stopped there.  Then came the fun part – trying to sort out my phone to use with the sim card we got from the lady at Hertz.  Well 2-3 hrs later and lots of frustration on my part – we finally left – still without any phone coverage.  This was totally my fault as I hadn’t done whatever it was that Al mentioned once in Australia as I had completely forgotten him mentioning said task that I needed to complete ! 
 View from our hotel window

In the car park

Al wanted to go to a DFO equivalent called Dress Smart – I wasn’t that keen because I wanted to get on the road – he won that compromise !!!  But we didn’t really shop around much – more like a quick dash through trying to find a phone shop (not successful) and so we went back across the road to The Hub for another try at sorting out my phone as they had free wi-fi in the centre.  At about 12 noon I said enough was enough and we left.

Drove past lots of paddocks surrounded by huge hedges – I remembered them exactly like that.  Drove past lots of sheep and the cutest little lambs (didn’t get any photos but on my list of things to do before we leave).  And then we hit Arthur’s Pass.  It wasn’t anything like we imagined – we imagine a pass through the mountains but it was actually a pass through the valley !!!!!  So really high mountains on one side and the valley floor on the other side.  I slept through part of that and woke when Al got to the West Coast and went to have a look at that ocean there.  Saw lots of lovely drift wood  - if only we could bring some of it home !!!!!
I love you too !!! 
 More driftwood

We had both forgotten about all the single lane bridges and how we can drive at 100kph on a single lane in either direction road – so strange when in Queensland we can only do 100kph on a three lane in either direction highway !!!!!

Stopped to put in petrol at Hokitika and the guy who ran the servo was from Pietermaritzburg, a town about 80kms from where we lived in South Africa !!!  We drove through Frans Josef and stopped at Fox Glacier and found accommodation for the night at a really lovely place called Westhaven.  They had undercarpet heating and this wee little heater on the wall which we thought wouldn’t be able to heat up the room but we were pleasantly surprised at how well it distributed the heat it generated.  It also had a really good sized bath so I made sure to have a great soak in it before I went to bed (I love a good soak in the bath with my book)!!!  We had dinner at Cook and Saddle – Al had ribs and chips and I had spinach and feta cannelloni before walking back to the unit (rather briskly as it was bloody cold) and hitting the bed after a great first day on holiday.

Day 3 - Fox Glacier - Wanaka

This morning we learned that getting dressed in whatever we are going to wear for the day before packing the car is not the smartest idea !!!!!  Full thermals, plus jeans and shirts in a heated unit is not the best way to start the day.  By the time Al had the car packed he was sweating like anything so in future think we will just put thermals on until we are ready to actually walk out the door (sorry if that it TMI – at least it is better than us staying naked until we walked out the door – sorry for that picture I just put in your head !!)

Fox Glacier


After we were up and moving we went to the lookout point where you can see Mt Tasman, Mt Cook and the Fox Glacier all in one shot.  From there we went to have breakfast at Lake Matheson CafĂ© (included in our accommodation price for the night along with free wi-fi but we still weren’t able to sort out my phone).  After having breakfast (Al had bacon, sausage and egg and I had blueberry pancakes – they were delicious and I wished I could have had them for more mornings !!!)  we walked through to Lake Matheson to the viewpoint and took some photos of the reflections of the mountains in the lake.  They didn’t come out that well as the lake wasn’t completely still with a few ripples here and there.  We didn’t go all the way around the lake as we wanted to walk to see the glacier.  It was reasonably warm and we had our thermals on.  So when we got to Fox Glacier Al took his thermals off and I took my thermal top off – regretted it for the first 20 mins but then was glad I had !!!  It was mainly up hill on the way to the glacier with a couple of stream crossings (lucky Al was there to help me over !!!) – took some photos when we got to the Chalet Outlook.  At the end of the day, the glacier is just a HUGE lump of dirty ice but the view from Chalet Outlook was so much better than the view from the foot of the glacier which is what we saw when we were there with my folks in 2004.  So, for anyone going, I would recommend that you walk on the south side of the glacier i.e. if you are coming from Foz itself, drive over the bridge and turn left – drive up to the carpark and then walk from there.  Just make sure it isn’t in spring when the ice is melting and the rivers are flooding or really big as it will be impassable unless you are experienced at that sort of thing.  (It also high-lighted just unfit I have got since I stopped running - hope I can manage The Stampede on the 8th !!!!)
Al at Paringa River


 The rainforest we had to walk through to get to Fox Glacier
Walking to see Fox Glacier

Finally, at the glacier (or at least as far as we can get from this side)
Me playing the giddy goat after crossing 'the raging river' !!

'The raging river'

How clear is this water ?

Strongest man in the world (an old family joke !!)

Al not quick enough to get into this photo under the rock

Al quicker to get to me !
View of the West Coast after Fox Glacier on our way to Haast

Once we got back to the car we headed off to Wanaka stopping in Haast for lunch – Al had hoki and chips and I had a toasted sandwich (which was a little strange as there was one piece of brown bread and one piece of white bread used !!!!) – but, it tasted good and that was the main thing.  The chips were lovely !!!

We found our accommodation in Wanaka – looks like they want us to sit through a 90 min presentation which we are going to try really hard to get out of – we aren’t interested in buying any time share / credits / anything so hopefully we will be successful in getting out of it.

We went into town and picked up a couple of groceries and then a pizza (really nice one) from Uncle John before coming back to the unit to eat and have a drink (we bought a bottle of Amarula at duty free).  Now to watch some TV then shower and bed – no plans made for tomorrow.
Another great day in NZ with lots of laughs and recalling of child hood memories and the last time we visited here – what more could I ask for ?  Such a great way to celebrate 25 years with my best friend.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Day 4 - Wanaka

Today we made our way down to Arrowtown.  What a quaint little place – reminded us both of Pilgrim’s Rest in South Africa.  We parked, walked up and down the central street, bought a pie (which was REALLY good – and that is saying something as I am not a pie kind of girl !!!) and hit the road to Queenstown.
We wandered around Queenstown for a while – didn’t do any shopping as there really isn’t anything that we needed or wanted.  We went up to Coronet Peak and that is where the fun began !!!!  Well it began sooner than that as I had to lie down on the drive up – I don’t do heights well at all.  There were cars parked everywhere – some parking spaces were really close to the edge but even if they had been open I wouldn’t have let Al park there !!!!  We found a parking eventually, put our ‘noisy’ pants on and went to find some snow to play in. We were a bit nervous about where we could play so eventually went inside and asked someone.  They were a bit surprised and asked a couple of times – you don’t want to ski or snow board, you just want to play ?  When they finally got that we didn’t want to ski or snow board they said that there were no designated play areas and that we could just go out and play anywhere in the snow but to make sure we keep looking for people coming down the slopes !!!!  We had so much fun – making and throwing snowballs (Al’s aim was heaps better than mine !!!) and just being like little kids in the snow.  I made an angel and pushed all the newly fallen snow off things (fences and posts etc) before we took our photo in front of the Coronet Peak sign.  On our way back to the car we stopped and built a little snowman (that actually looked more like a seal than a man !!!!) before leaving the snow. 

Making my snow angel
My snow angel finished 
 Look at all that snow !!!
 Standing on our 'undesignated play area' !
 It  looks like we are close to the edge - we are NOWHERE close !!
 Swiping all the freshly fallen snow off the posts
I Love You !
More laughs !
  Our snow man (dwarf ?)
Back down in Queenstown we decided to go for a cruise on the steam ship across the lake so went and parked the car and got tickets.  It wasn’t too crowded so that was good.  It was amazing going across the lake and listening to the commentary about the history of Queenstown and the surrounding landscape.  We could walk down and see how the steam ship actually worked as there was a platform above some of the working parts of the steamer. 
TSS Earnslaw 
 TSS Earnslaw
More laughs - having so much fun
On TSS Earnslaw going across Lake Wakatipu
View from Lake Wakatipu

After that we started to look into going to Doubtful Sound for a visit which entailed a change to our original plan so we got prices and went back to the hotel to think about it and see what we could work out.

We stopped at Cookie Time and got two hot cookies each – they were very nice – not sure if it was because we were cold and they were nice and warm or whether they were actually that good.  I said to Al that I didn’t think I would worry about having them again because they were too rich for me. (Who is the lady who eats two cookies and says that they are too rich ??????  Wonder if my taste buds are changing with my age ??????)

Al managed to get hold of a guy he used to play baseball and softball with who now lives in Wanaka and we made arrangements to catch up with him tomorrow.
Another great day in NZ with amazing weather and so many memories.

Day 5 - Wanaka

We had a bit of a lazy day today.  Got up and drove around checking out the scenery.  Decided to go and look at a gorge – bad mistake for me to actually look at the gorge as we are driving over this single lane bloody rickety wooden bridge – have no idea why I looked over !!!!  Anyway then we had to go a little further to turn around and come back over this stupid bridge again.

Part of the lazy day was because I woke up feeling ‘off’ – nothing I could put my finger on but just not myself, which I wasn’t happy about but what could I do except tell Al and deal with however the day panned out.

Made arrangements to meet with T at 4pm at Lone Star.  Turns out he is the head chef there !!!!!  Funny, of all the professions that we thought T would be in, being a chef wasn’t on the list !!!  We (more Al and T than me) talked and talked.  We worked out it has probably been about 15 years since they last saw each other.  Al got the phone number of another youngster he used to play baseball with (who isn’t such a youngster anymore !!!) who is now living in Auckland and called him later – he was stunned to hear from Al and is coming across to Brisbane in January so is going to get in touch with Al then and see if we can catch up when he is in Australia.

Another great day in NZ !!!!!  So happy with the holiday that we have had so far – it really has been amazing.  The scenery is to die for, the company even better and then memories we are making, priceless !!!!

 Lake Wanaka

Day 6 - Wanaka - Queenstown - Te Anau

Woke up this morning and put a load of washing on before we left.  Packed our bags and hit the road back to Queenstown and Coronet Peak for another chance to play in the snow.  Man, do you know how difficult it is to go to the loo when you are ‘all rugged up’ ?  You can’t ever leave it to the last minute and I pity anyone who gets gippo guts !!!!!  Lift up one jacket, two jackets, three jackets and T-shirt.  Undo pants and pull them down, lift up thermals, pull down thermals, pull down knickers – finally you are there !!!!  And then of course do it in reverse once you are finished provided your scarf isn’t too long and finds its way between your legs !!!  So much to think about when all you want to do is have a pee !!!!

Anyway, we had so much fun.  This time we built up a stock of snowballs before starting our snow fight – it didn’t make any difference – I still lost basically because my aim is cr*p !!!!!  But so much fun.  I did get Al one good shot as I ‘forgot’ to shout incoming (an agreed call before starting to play) and he looked up, saw it and ducked only he ducked his head and it landed on the back of his neck and slid down his back !!!!  We both started with 10 snow balls but I think Al threw about 17 or 18 at me because he was just catching the ones I was throwing at him and then throwing them back at me !!!

I am so glad we went up to the snow on Monday because so much of the snow had already melted by the time we got back up there today with no fresh snow falls.  Most of what we were playing in today was very icy compared to how fluffy and light it felt on Monday.  I can’t believe that it is the middle of August and there is so little snow.  Everyone we have spoken to has said how unusually warm this winter has been and how little snow they have had.  I guess I am just really happy that we did manage to get to play in the snow twice.

The second little snowman (seal) that we built !!
Look how much less snow there is here compared to the other day

After we left Coronet Peak we went back to Queenstown to have a Ferg burger but it was so busy there we gave it a miss.  We stopped at Real Journey and booked our tickets for Doubtful Sound tomorrow.  Balked a little at the price ($198 each) but then decided that we would do it as our anniversary present to each other.  We left Queenstown and headed for Te Anau.

We found the loveliest place called Radfords Motel on Lake Te Anau – pricier than I wanted but when I saw the rooms and the little touches in them (lovely smelling burners in the rooms, chocolates on the pillow, tea bags for the bath with bath salts and lovely smellies in them, spa bath, really lovely looking units and best of all, free wi-fi for the two nights we were there), I said to Al that I thought we should spoil ourselves and it was only 2 nights !!!! 

We went into ‘town’ and watched a movie on the Fijordlands – what amazing photography !!!  It was so good even though I had to close my eyes sometimes when the helicopters were filming over the sides of the mountains !!!!!

We had dinner at a real cowboy looking place before going back to the unit to have an early night given we have an early start to the day tomorrow to go to the Sound.

Day 7 - Te Anau (Doubtful Sound)

This morning Al was up early and went to the bakery to get breakfast and rolls for lunch while I got ready.  A bus picked us up outside the motel and took us through to Manapouri where we hopped onto a boat for an hour’s trip across Lake Manapouri.  While we were waiting to board the boat, someone announced that the two tour groups needed to go on the first boat and everyone else would go on the second boat.  Well 10 minutes later there are still people running from the car park (or wherever else they were hiding) and wanting to push through to the front of the queue – talking nineteen to the dozen.  That was when I leant over and whispered to Al “Now I remember why we don’t do the tour group thing.  I like the companionable silence we sometimes share as well as being able to stop and start as we please.  Please remind me about this next time I suggest going on a tour thing !!!!”  He just laughed and said he had forgotten about it as well !!!!

We finally got onto our boat and then went across the lake.  The skipper was really good and made the commentary really interesting.  At the other side of the lake (1 hr later) we hopped onto a bus for a 45 min journey across the mountains before we finally got to Doubtful Sound.  By the time we got to the boat, the two tour groups had pretty much run on and thrown bags and bottles of water onto chairs and tables to ‘book’ them before they went outside.  We put our bags down on one of the middle tables and then went outside.  The temp was relatively mild until we picked up speed on the Sound – then it was bitterly cold.  Thank goodness we had the clothes that we had as they certainly did make it bearable.  I didn’t want to spend too much time inside and figured for $198 I wanted to get my money’s worth out of the trip !!!!  We saw a couple of dolphins which swam close to the boat.  A little while later we saw a couple of penguins although they were very shy and you had to be quick to see them (luckily we were !!!) and then we saw a colony of NZ fur seals on an island in the Sound.

The scenery in this area is just amazing.  While Milford Sound has all these almost sheer cliff faces, the mountains around Doubtful Sound slope more.  There are many islands in the sound – some are bird sanctuaries, some are home to colonies of penguins or fur seals. 
The pass between Lake Manapouri and Doubntful Sound

View on Wilmot Pass



 Fur seals on island
Entrance to the sea from Doubtful Sound




At one point in the trip, the skipper pulled into a little area of the Sound, switched off the engines and let us listen to the sound of silence (well as silent as it could be when people insist on walking around and taking photos even though they were asked to stay still and not take any photos just for those 2 minutes !!!!  Honestly, sometimes people just have no idea !!!!!)  It would have been amazing if we could have heard it without the steps and cameras clicking !!!!  So peaceful and tranquil.

We had some rain while we were in the Sound but not enough to chase us indoors.  The rest of the time there was quite heavy cloud cover with lots of low lying clouds which made it often look like scenes from Lord of the Rings !!!  The 3 hrs on the Sound passed so quickly and before I knew it, we were back where the boat docks and on the way back over the mountain.  Included in the tour is a trip to the underground power station – 2km under – again, bug wuss that I am, there is no way I was going to go 2km underground.  So, we hopped out before they went down and waited at the dock for them to get back before boarding the boat to get across Lake Manapouri and then finally the bus trip back to Te Anau.

A lovely soak in the spa was a great way to end a truly fantastic day !!!! This would have to be up there as one of the magical moments of our holiday – definitely well worth the money spent.