Australia, New Zealand · 19 Days · 84 Moments · April 2017

New Zealand - South Island 2017

5 May 2017

Our Final Day in Christchurch Again Day 18 - Pt8: ... the gauge did not get to full, not even close. I was sure the pump had clicked off as usual. $47 of fuel should have been enough. We drove on and gradually it clicked up another bar on the gauge. I began to worry, when we were close to the airport and one gradient short of full, that I would be paying the rental company for a full tank with only about $5 of petrol owing. So, I pulled into another servo. We never made the pump as Lisa said to not worry and see what happens. We left the servo to find it clicked up that last marking on the electronic gauge and all was good. We made the airport about 3:30pm - 30 minutes over our due time. It was neither here nor there for the staff at Hertz. Just a needless worry on my part. We headed into the terminal and all went well with check in and departure. Before we knew it we were home & Sam and Alex were driving us home. Another great trip done.

4 May 2017

Our Final Day in Christchurch Again Day 18 - Pt7: We went to the observation deck. It was a fabulous view with Lyttleton Harbour on one side and the city of Christchurch on the other. We gave ourselves about 10-minutes, but knew we had to get 'back on the horse'. Those who were waiting when we arrived had now been allowed to go down. A few concerned faces had met us once we entered the gift shop as they knew what was going on. They did want to know if we were OK and looked a little worried themselves about the trip down. The engineer had assured all the wind phenomenon would pass and it did. We went down and all went well with the 11-minute homeward bound journey. Glad to be down, and relieved, we jumped in the car and began our late run to the airport. Now it felt like we were running late and still had to fill the car with petrol. I was still a bit shaken from what we had just been through and forgot to fully turn off the car when refueling. This only meant that when I got back...
Our Final Day in Christchurch Again Day 18 - Pt6: Would you have to climb over the top. Lisa told me to stop with this, as time passed; the wind whipped around us & we shifted from side to side on the cable more than either of us felt comfortable with. 20, 25, 30 minutes & we began to level out for entry to the drop off zone. The female attendant met us at the door with a look of concern on her face. As the door opened she enquired after us. She could tell we were a little anxious & shaken. She then apologized that she had missed the wind change. She can normally see it coming, but not this time. It had been a freak shift in the wind that had taken them past the 80km/h system stop warning and it had hit 93km/h. She explained they had to get us up & were letting no-one else on until they had. We were the only ones on the ride. We were relieved to be on solid ground, but had now run out of time to do much more than come back down. We could not do this just yet so had a walk around.
Our Final Day in Christchurch Again Day 18 - Pt5: We thought fair enough and hopped in and away the gondola went. All went well apart from the occasional stoppage. A sign said this was normal procedure. About halfway up a recorded message came into the car saying not to worry the car was being slowed because of the wind. The gondola rocked and swayed a bit more than usual and the wind began howling around us. We had slowed an awful lot now and the gondola was literally crawling up the steep hill at a snail's pace. The message continued to be played every few minutes & we swayed a bit more. I was becoming increasingly anxious & Lisa was telling me to stay calm. We joked, but we did not joke. At this point we realised no one was coming down in the passing gondolas. A good 15-minutes had passed & we were nowhere near the top. I began wondering if they stopped us near a support how we would even get to the ladder. The gondola doors were on the wrong side to this. It consumed my thoughts.
Our Final Day in Christchurch Again Day 18 - Pt4: All had taken longer than expected today and we still wanted to head out of town to ride the gondola to get an aerial view of Christchurch; Lyttleton Harbour to the sea and across the Canterbury Plains. This was about a 20-minute drive out of town. We decided we had about an hour and a half to do this and get the hire car back at the airport by 3:00pm. By the time we reached the gondola the weather had closed in a bit. Grey skies and a little bit of wind had arrived. We walked straight in and checked how long it would take. The attendant said it was an 11-minute trip up, but may be a bit slower due to the wind. We thought this would be plenty of time to get up; have a quick walk around; back and make the 30-minute trip to the airport. Time was short. Before we got in the attendant weighed down the gondola with two big 10 litre containers. We looked quizzically at him. He said they were for the wind and the trip may be a little slower.
Our Final Day in Christchurch Again Day 18 - Pt3: Our next target was the classic tram tour. Basically a hop-on-hop-off bus, but on tracks and a historic tram. It takes 50 minutes to cover a full circuit and the wonderful old tram driver narrated as he went along. As we sat up near him on a sparsely populated carriage he could hear our responses to his talk. The more we responded the more he added and joked. He captured such pride in the new buildings and regrowth, but also mourned the loss of many great landmarks. He personalized the journey so well. The conductor was quick to point out to Lisa that she was sitting in the seat Queen Elizabeth II sat when she road the tram in 1995. A little plaque confirmed this. We left the tram at Cathedral Junction, but the driver did not let us go without having more of a chat with us and a few others who just got on. He was a delight. We wandered back to the wonderful little New Regent St with its cafes and Spanish influence to have a drink.
Our Final Day in Christchurch Again Day 18 - Pt2: We moved on from here and paid our $20 each to go into the 'Quake City' display set up further down the street. It was part of the museum display, but located here to capture the public interest. It was a powerful and moving display with many heart-wrenching personal accounts relived through video presentations. It was hard to not have a lump in your throats and tears in your eyes on more than one occasion. The original earthquake took place out of Christchurch on September 4th 2010 at 4:35pm. It was strong at 7.1, but the one that caused all the damage occurred at 12:50pm on the 22nd February 2011. It was only an aftershock, but was shallow and so had a devastating impact on the city. 185 people were killed. Many personal stories were told here. We spent more time here than expected. It was hard to not want to listen to and read it all. Hope was slowly returning to the city. Signs of new life showed, but some scars will never mend.
Our Final Day in Christchurch Again Day 18 - Pt1: After a wet and windy Wednesday for most of the trip to Christchurch and some of the evening we woke to blue skies and a good day. We wanted to see a bit more of Christchurch so got ourselves going and made sure our bags were packed better than normal for flights home. All my travel paperwork had fallen at our penultimate destination. Yes it was still sitting on the desk in Tekapo. Luckily it was not required apart from our obsession with collecting brochures. They were lost. We checked out & loaded the car putting in a bit more money in the meter to secure our parking spot. We then headed into Hereford St & ate at a lovely new cafe, Arbo, part of the new Christchurch. The girl who served us was a delight and we listened in on some businessmen talking about bringing business back into the city. The place was dynamic & even those NZers from outside were behind the times with just how much things were moving ahead & renewing. New life!

3 May 2017

Tekapo to Christchurch Day 17 - Pt2: We arrived in Christchurch at about 2:30pm. The route in to Cathedral Square and the Novotel was just one construction site after another. Even parks were being redesigned. It really is an interesting place to visit. We checked into the Novotel and I then had to find a park for the car. Many of the Wilson Carparks were on just disused patches of land; gravel and mud. I found one, parked and walked back to the hotel. Lisa and I then headed back to the Old Government Building nearby where we had had such a good time last time here. We had a drink and some finger food before heading back to the hotel. Here we had a rest and went for dinner in the hotel. The rain was now falling again after some reprieve this arvo. Snow forecast for Tekapo tomorrow. We might just get out before winter arrives. Cutting it close.
Tekapo to Christchurch Day 17 - Pt1: The wind howled all night as it looked like the strong winds of yesterday had followed us to town. Rain also met our day and for the first time looked like it would be with us for the day. The walk through the lodge set up of Peppers to breakfast confirmed our fears. Bad weather had found us. It was icy cold, windy and whilst not heavy rain, it hit you hard and cold. We finished breakfast and checked out ready to cover some of Lake Teakapo staples - Historic Chapel; Dog on the Tuckerbox - Whoops sorry - Dog on a nicely constructed pile of rocks; St Johns Observatory. The observatory was closed at ground level. The chapel was freezing and heavy rain and the dog was very lonely. We did what we could and hit the road. The Apple Maps took us an unexpected route to Christchurch taking us through the towns of: Albert, Cave, Pleasant Point, Temuka, Omari, Hinds, Ashburton, Rakaia, Rolleston. We saw plenty of the Canterbury Plains along the way.

2 May 2017

Marvelous Mt Cook Day 16 - Pt7: Some things from the Mt Cook experience were interesting. One that challenged us was the scene at the end of our Hooker Valley walk. Just past the Alpine Memorial track lots were taking pictures of something at the edge of the trail in the long tussocky grass. At first we thought it the view, but realised it was something closer and on the ground. At first we thought cute as we saw three kittens huddled here together in the bush, but then we realised their was a fourth body. It looked like a dead rabbit or possum and these wild cats were tearing it to bits. Lisa was particularly disgusted that people were filming this. We moved on quickly. The other was a couple that had caught our eye at dinner last night & earlier. An elderly gent & his Asian partner (wife). Lisa had overheard their conversation at dinner and realised this may have been their honeymoon. It was like a business discussion. Wherever we went from then they were there. We mean everywhere.
Marvelous Mt Cook Day 16 - Pt6: The majestic Mt Cook at 3724m had watched over all we had achieved today. We had loved our 24 hours here and now it was time to go. We left the Aoraki National Park travelled down the long U-Shaped valley the 50km needed to reach our Tekapo turn off. This then took us, and our Holden Trax, up the eastern side of Lake Pukaki and eventually cross country to Lake Tekapo. The drive here is mostly flat but spectacular is not far away with mountains surrounding you on every border. The hour and ten minute drive had us into the Peppers Blue Water Resort at 5:30pm. It was a great day and tomorrow leads us to Christchurch and our final night in New Zealand. We enjoyed another bottle of leftover wine; relaxed and then walked into Mackenzie's Grill for dinner. The food was good and when finished we walked home after another exhausting day.
Marvelous Mt Cook Day 16 - Pt5: All were along different trails, but all up about an hours walk. Knees were aching and hamstrings were tight and the stairs had me on my haunches on more than one occasion. The Blue Lakes were all ours. No one else was down here. It was always special to have such places to yourself. The climb to see the glacier and lake was tough and the wind was the strongest of the day. We were warned on our way up. Upon arrival we believed the 110km/h forecast had arrived. It was scary & was even pushing me around. The few up here had all taken up brace positions to stabilize. It was so hard to take a photo as you could not hold the camera still. Lisa had her feet up on big rocks on the edge to make sure she did not go over. One gust hurried me to the edge & that was when we decided it was time to go. Downhill is so much easier and it did not take long to be in lighter, but still strong winds. We had survived and seen two glaciers in a day & NZs tallest mountain.
Marvelous Mt Cook Day 16 - Pt4: We eventually decided our time was up. It was cold and time to let the wind off the mountain push us home. We had taken over two hours to get here but just over an hour to get back to the car. We headed back to The Hermitage for a much needed recharge of mostly fluid, but managed a scone, a pie and a few other treats, as part of that recovery. We were really tired, but wanted to do more. We sat in two lounge chairs facing the mountains and when ready we moved on. This time we travelled up the adjacent valley to the Hooker, in the Tasman Valley. Again a long drive on flat open plains with low vegetation stuck between jagged mountains. We reached the parking area and from the moment we hit the ground we realised the wind was even stronger. This was a shorter, but steeper climb of 100m upwards and mostly stairs. There were several things to see here - Blue Lakes, Tasman Glacier and the terminal lake. We got to all and we were glad we did them all.
Marvelous Mt Cook Day 16 - Pt3: ... swing bridges. They were tremendous fun with their rock, sway & slats down to perilous rapids below. They certainly sharpened the senses & we took on a 'you must not touch the railing' policy. Easier said than done. I swear you felt all at sea for the next 100m or so as your body and middle ear readjusted. Well laid out boardwalks above the tundra vegetation; well crafted stairs; beautifully leveled gravel trails marked the way. These made it so much easier, but with our level of fitness and age things were hurting. It was an effort, but oh so worthwhile. The prize was the view to the Hooker Glacier across a glacial lake with many small icebergs floating on its surface and one big black one. The wind was strongest here, but we just had to spend some time sitting on the moraine beach taking in the magnificence of the scene. This was as close as we would get to Mt Cook with the Glacier wrapping around its base. It was such a fabulous experience!
Marvelous Mt Cook Day 16 - Pt2: ... one of the most popular in the park. A 3-4 hour return walk and rising up to 80 metres along the way we loved it all. Puffed at stages and luckily good weather added to the mix. The wind picked up along the way and was forecast at 110km/h. There were times when you thought the leg you lifted to move forward was going to only be blown back to where it just came from. At one spot we walked into a shaded area, out of the sun and wind. We were immediately hot and so was the air around us. It was so strange we both noticed it at the same time. Early in the walk we went up to the Alpine Memorial. This pyramid of rock, in the bushland along the trail, was in memory of all who had died climbing in this area. We were moved by more than 30 or more names, most young, who had died in just the last 80 years. Soldiers, climbers, photographers, adventures and even a father and daughter. Scary and sad!! This was early in the walk. From here we crossed three ...
Marvelous Mt Cook Day 16 - Pt1: The sunrise was at 7:31am and it didn't require anymore than to step out of bed and go to the window to watch the first rays hit the mountain. Insert superlative here!!! We got moving and headed down to a beautiful buffet breakfast - $50 - This is about what we've paid anywhere to get breakfast. We were surprised there were so few people here as the hotel was full. Must have been our late start. We went up and packed the car before checking out and then headed to the nearby Hooker Valley for a tramp (NZ term). At first our plan was to just make the first swing bridge, but this walk was so spectacular and so well set out we had to continue. The destination became secondary as the walk itself never let up its attack on the senses. The drive in alone along the flat beds and wide plains of these U-Shaped Valleys makes you feel minute on a grand scale. I continually imagined those huge LOTR battlefields between snow capped mountains. This walk is .....

1 May 2017

The Road Trip Gets Serious Day 15 - Pt3: We also enjoyed some of the left over cheese we were gifted. Thanks gang. After a while we decided to explore The Hermitage and its surrounds. It was another busy place after Wanaka, which had been a nice break from business. It had slowed down quite a bit with school holidays over for the NZ kids and holiday makers off home. Here, however, was a very Asian clientele and a few conichiwa's were needed as you passed people in the hall. We checked out as much as we could, but the 3 degrees outside was a little hard to take and dropping quickly as the sun disappeared. It was -1deg by bedtime. We booked into dinner and had a warm drink by the fireplace watching the last rays fade on the peak. This truly was a tranquil and majestic place. A beautiful meal was had in the Panorama Restaurant, even though at 7:30pm you could not see a thing in the darkness. We sat by the window and the cold could be felt making its way through despite the warmth.
The Road Trip Gets Serious Day 15 - Pt2: ... and a date scone. Yes, my second breakfast. The caramel milkshake was amazing; huge and so thick. It had caramel pieces in it, like fudge. The date scone was good too. Full as a goog we wandered down for a few last shots before taking off on the 204km journey to Mt Cook. This time the mountains with snow were close enough to touch. They were the mountains that came to the roads edge. The drive through Lindis Pass was yet another filled with superlatives. For most of the 2 hour journey we saw next to no-one until getting closer to Mt Cook. We passed through Omarama and Twizel and then reached the 50km run into Mt Cook. A roadside stop for hundreds of sheep on the road was fun and soon we were at our luxury digs for the night. The clear sky gave us some fabulous views of Mt Cook that sits right in front of the Hermitage. Our room faced this monolith and we spent a fair bit of the arvo sipping wine on the balcony and admiring the view.
The Road Trip Gets Serious Day 15 - Pt1: From today onwards we are on the road each day to a new destination, eventually making our way to Christchurch. Today we headed to The Hermitage at Mt Cook. We packed and got organised for our departure. I had one of my worst nights of the trip and got little sleep. Maybe too much blue screen. We had loved our stay in Wanaka and headed into town to the Big Fig, or 'Bug Fug', for another eclectic mix of food. They mostly sell their food by the size of the bowl you order. There are three sizes up to a $22.50 plate. I just got a vegetable fratata; a spicy lamb gozleme; a yoghurt berry smoothie and coffee. Lisa found the food not to her taste and just had a coffee. All was pretty spicy in a very Moroccan style. We ended up at another cafe for Lisa after this, The Federal Diner. It was hidden down a timber decked lane way. Lisa had the most amazing banana bread and tea. I felt the need to order something and got a caramel milkshake ....

30 April 2017

Wanaka Exploring Day 14 - Pt5: We took an hour to get back to Wanaka and just beat the fading light. It had been a stunning day. We headed to the hotel for a quick refresh and then headed out to dinner. We ended up at Francesca's Italian Kitchen, for another quality meal. Loved the organic Sauv Blanc and the homemade focaccia with lemon infused whipped ricotta, and this was just the starters. We had a lovely chat about our day and the getting back on the horse that was required to go from 12 back down to 2. We had shaken off the loss and begun to find our way again. The lady in the shop had been right about the weather as she said, "Rain before 7:00, clear by 11:00". This was a local saying, but it had been better than that. We had been pretty much unaffected by bad weather for the whole trip now. Cool yes, bad weather no. Word began to filter through of safe arrivals home from the group. Anne and Dave had safely traversed the north and made Nelson. All was going to plan.
Wanaka Exploring Day 14 - Pt4: Instead it was a walk to an old historic saw-pit area. The moss covered the trees and hung from the branches. It had a bit of magic about the place. This was only about a 20 minute detour before we realised Blue Pools was just a bit further up the road. It was another winding and meandering path down into the forest. The well marked path soon became a timber boardwalk and then surprise! surprise a suspension bridge. We bounced our way across to another series of boardwalks and then another suspension bridge over the Pools. It was just fantastic and no more than a 20-minute walk from the road. We took in the view for some time. The Blue Pools were more green than blue, but the grandeur, serenity and magnificence of this place was not lost on us because of the wayward colour. It was now getting late and our concern was to make it back to Wanaka along a windy road before dark. We set off for the lonely trek with hardly another car in sight.
Wanaka Exploring Day 14 - Pt3: We finished here and apart from a few mountain bikers had the walk to ourselves. We now jumped in the car and punched in the Blue Pools up around the Haast Pass as our next destination. This was about an hours drive north and took us along most of Lake Hawea before you travel about 1.5km cross country to the eastern shore of Lake Wanaka and continued north. This then takes you to the end of Lake Wanaka and into the mountains beyond. The snowy white peaks were all around us. This was a lonely but spectacular drive as we saw very few others on the road. The conversation and some great songs on the radio filled in the journey - The Air that I Breathe (Hollies); Raise Me Up (Josh Groban); Sailing (Rod Stewart); Wicked Game (Chris Isaak) - It was like a soundtrack to fit the view. At times it was a haunting mix. We eventually made Makarora and the GPS had us turn into a tiny little off road saying it was Blue Pools. It was not.
Wanaka Exploring Day 14 - Pt2: Our conversation over and a small purchase made we headed off to explore some more until heading out to the Clutha River. Clutha is Gaelic for Clyde and so it is named after the River Clyde in Glasgow. This is the second longest river in NZ at 338km, but it was still a little difficult to find the spot she suggested we begin our walk We turned off onto a dirt road which lead down to a camping ground. We unsuccessfully tried a few dirt road turn offs she suggested, but warnings of private property and untethered dogs had us turning back. We eventually went down to the camping ground, parked and walked. It was a stunning walk past eddies and rapids with all the autumn hues surrounding us. A little Willy Wagtail befriended us and followed us along the trail for about 100m. Just a little curious as to who we were. When we stopped it would sit somewhere on a branch very close by and twitter away at us. He eventually moved on as we left his territory.
Wanaka Exploring Day 14 - Pt1: We had a good sleep in and headed out about 10:30am. It had rained all night and we were expecting an awful day. This was not to be as the rain had cleared. Not only that, but we had been left with a dusting of snow capped mountains all around. Stunning! We wanted some breakfast and found ourselves at the busy Kai Whakapai Cafe and Bar downtown. We sat upstairs at this eclectic little spot and ate our cauliflower fritters with eggs. Yes, different, but beautiful. We didn't need internet here, but this is where they charged $2 for half an hour. Finishing here we then wandered the streets of Wanaka far more extensively. We found ourselves in a number of shops. One gift shop, Kaleidoscope, we found ourselves to be the only customers. We had a great chat for a good half an hour with the owner. She was full of great info about Wanaka and directed us to a walk along the Clutha River. She also told us that 80% of the rain that falls here falls at night.

29 April 2017

On The Road Again Day 13 - Pt4: We had two nights here and we decided to give them as little of our time as we could. This was fine as there was just too much to see and do in Wanaka to worry about this minor distraction. We were even rung again seeking our interest in attending after I had stalled them off at the first attempt. I did however sign up on line just to claim the $8 a day back for use of the internet. This was not the only place doing this. A beaut cafe we went to also charged $2 for half an hours internet. Wanaka! Get with the times. We only ate at this place. We headed to town for an early dinner. We continued our second time visits and went back to the Lake Bar, our lunch stop back on Thursday. It was like we were trying to reclaim the spirit of the lost companionship now we were back to just a party of two. Yes we were missing our group. It had been so much fun and all had got on well for the most part. This marked the end of our day. Early to bed followed.
On The Road Again Day 13 - Pt3: From here it was goodbye Queenstown. We went back through the city and out past some familiar sites - Shotover, Coronet Peak, the bungee etc. until we got to Arrowtown again. This required a stop and a quick walk up and down the Main Street one last time. From here we were off across the alpine road through Cardrona. Well, not quite through, as we stopped for a quick refreshment and cheese scone. Off we headed again passing the Cardrona Distillery and eventually we reached our destination of Wanaka in the late afternoon. We headed up to the west of the lake to find the Wyndham Resort we had booked. It was nice enough, but back to basic old hotel rooms. We didn't like the hard sell when we checked in trying to get us to a 90 minute benefits of joining their vacation club for a free breakfast. Come on! We are on holidays from this sort of crap. They also offered free internet only if you joined online. Really!!?? Lost interest in this place very quickly.
On The Road Again Day 13 - Pt2: They were meant to be on standby from Queenstown, but this flight filled overnight, so new plans were executed. The remaining six, including us, headed to town to kill some time. We were in no rush with a car and an hours drive to Wanaka, but Danny, Julie, Steve & Margo had 3:00pm flights home and had to wait around. Their luggage was stored in the garage and they walked down. We had a heavily loaded car and could only fit Danny for the rendezvous in town. We met at Patagonia for hot drinks and food and wandered around the market, before our farewells. We headed via the highly recommended Devils Burger for a roadie, only to run into Steve and Margo here just before we left. Anne and Dave had been given the good word on this place as a great alternative to the heavy queues at Fergburger, which we decided to miss. We now headed across the lake to Kelvin Peninsula for Lisa to walk the track. We ate our burgers on the seat and did the walk.
On The Road Again Day 13 - Pt1: It was moving on Saturday. All were up early and the packing was happening. Not sure how the girls were all up joining in on this, but they were. Cleaning out; clearing out and throwing out was happening in the kitchen. Jon and Pauline would be the first to go, but not before Jon dropped me down to Queenstown to pick up our new vehicle. I farewelled him here not sure I'd be back up the hill before they left. The Hertz was not open yet and I would have to wait. They were heading to Timaru for their last night and a catch up with an old friend. I did not have to wait too long and got our new car. A nice free upgrade to a Blue Holden Trax. I headed up the hill to find all still around so began the goodbyes again. P & J went first and then Dave C, Anne, Dave F and Jan. They were flying out to Christchurch at 11:00am. AC/DC were then heading off on a road trip north and JF/DF were on standby for a QANTAS flight to Sydney. This was a sudden change for them.

28 April 2017

Celebrating Queenstown Day 12 - Pt10: THE GIRL's TALE - Courtesy of Lisa (Final) - Julie and Lisa couldn't resist and joined in, just for one final song! Just one!! Anne and Margo were left to laugh at the show. The great night; fun times and a very short taxi ride home was the ending to a fabulous week. Margo and Julie disappeared into their house upon our arrival home after 1:00am. Anne and Lisa found Dave still up and recounted the night's events. Queenstown had been a hit with us and us with it. The girls had hero status from all the old men who had called the night done many hours before. We still don't know where they get the energy. SPECIAL MOMENT: At the Pog Mahone, earlier in the night, Julie presented Pauline with the bottle of Cardrona Gin we all put in for from the distillery. This was the groups way of thanking her for all the planning and booking she put into showing us a town she and Jon once lived in, bringing the town to life for us both in the present and the past.
Celebrating Queenstown Day 12 - Pt9: THE GIRL's TALE - Courtesy of Lisa (Cont) - Our enthusiasm opened the door for other patrons to join in, but true to form his ending was a new beginning for us. DJ music now filled the room and requests aplenty were made. We were joined now by the '3 shoppers' and the 6 of us began to well and truly get into the spirit of things! Literally! Several shouts and unpronounceable cocktails later had us all up and dancing with anyone and everyone .. from locals to overseas travellers. We didn't care who and enjoyed every moment and every foot stomping experience! - Lisa's feet are still recovering. Jan and Pauline left around midnight whilst the hangers on continued to party away. Once it was decided that time was up for our foray into Queenstown 'bar life' we left for home, but as luck would have it we stumbled upon a karaoke busker in the mall.
Celebrating Queenstown Day 12 - Pt8: THE GIRL's TALE - Courtesy of Lisa - So what did they get up to? - The men left the Irish pub claiming tiredness (ho hum). The girls remained, but soon moved on. Three girls broke away and wandered into Glassons clothing store for a bit of a browse whilst the three others decided to stick with the fun in a new bar! Anne had been given a heads up from a friendly travel agent earlier that day about a favourite of hers called, Habana. Well.... after locating this small establishment in a little dark alleyway we never looked back. It all happened as soon as we crossed the threshold. A guitarist was strumming some well known classic songs and noticed he suddenly acquired an enthusiastic 'singalong' group - us! We joined in on John Farnham's, 'Your The Voice'. Subsequently we ended up being the 'back up vocals' until the end of his shift.
Celebrating Queenstown Day 12 - Pt7: We moved on from Harry's and met the others at the Irish Pub. A few Kilkenny's; an Irish stew; a Guinness pie and a few other meals, drinks and ales and the blokes called it quits. The girls decided to stay on and that is a whole new story which Lisa will be handed the blog shortly to explain. Stay tuned! We headed off to walk the hill home. Danny was a definite no on this and disappeared into the night to buy a six pack of beer and find a taxi home. The rest of us began the climb. It was slow and steady as we all wished we were fitter. Stops were required and a few steps in a backward direction all were needed to encourage us onwards. Dave F played mind games with us to convince us all to continue. Jon had left us well behind and Steve too was off in the distance. By 9:00pm we were home and we gathered to relive the tale. Dave F sorted the expenses for settlement and we all drifted off to bed one by one. The girls were nowhere to be seen.
Celebrating Queenstown Day 12 - Pt6: The luge riders moved from the slower introductory run to the speed run. My word this had a few hearts racing as it had quite a few steep drops and sharp bends. Exhilarating stuff as a few new recruits joined the crew as some shared their ride tickets with partners. It was all over too quickly and we gathered in the kiosk for hot drinks and snacks with all reliving the thrill. We all then wandered off to the viewing area out over Queenstown. Here they had a sample of the old style gondola that would have been used at our last visit in 1985. There were some amazing art works just inside this area made our of jelly beans. I loved the one of Frodo staring at the one ring. Our time here was done and we moved to the gondolas for the run down. Some had already moved on and we were to meet at the Pig Mahones Irish Pub. On our walk here Jon, Pauline, Dave F, Jan, Lisa and I saw a place called Harry's Pool Bar. We had a drink sitting by the fire. Lovely!
Celebrating Queenstown Day 12 - Pt5: We made it up another hill to the gondola. All met here at 2:30pm and we jumped in a car with Julie and Danny. Danny did well as his dislike of heights showed, but not a peep out of him. A quick reconnaissance of the facility and many of us jumped on the next chair lift to the top of the luge ride which we had all bought a few rides on as part of our ticket up. This was a hoot. Dave F, Jon, Steve, Lisa, Julie, Pauline and I did the first run on the slower circuit. All must do this first to get your licence. Of course the race was on and Dave F reeled us all in and was in his car racing element. He was great to watch overtake both on the right and the left. We all finished with smiles on our faces. The rest of the group took up vantage points to take in the antics if not riding. All seemed to enjoy the spectacle. Danny ended up out on a viewing platform that was a little wobbly and made a desperate scramble back, clearing a path, to safer ground.
Celebrating Queenstown Day 12 - Pt4: Lisa and I headed down the hill too. It was a very steep and windy road down. We headed out to the park on the point of Queenstown itself. Lisa had missed the morning walk, so this was to satisfy some of that. It too was a very impressive park with pines and great views of the lake. I was able to point out the goats on the adjacent peninsula that we had discovered this morning. We wound back up into the middle of the park after covering the perimeter. Here we found a beautiful rose garden and duck pond with the cutest little stone bridge and fountain. We saw the frisbee golf course they have set up around the park and it's amazing little netted baskets. What a great idea! From here we ended up at the Bath House cottage on the foreshore of the lake for tea and cake. What a great little spot. We had our own little room. It was more than cute. This gave us a little more wandering time around town before heading for the gondola. Plenty to see here!
Celebrating Queenstown Day 12 - Pt3: We all kept to our word and were back in time for breakfast at 10:00am. With Julie's breakfast in full swing I headed back to the airport to drop the bus off. It had been a great investment in the week and we had had many great conversations; laughs and adventures. As usual the ever reliable and supportive Jon followed me back in the car to give me a lift home. The bus dropped off with no problems we headed home. Jon took me on a little detour to get a photo of some strange sculptures in front of someone's house. Of course one involved an old decaying motor bike with it's ghostly skeletoned rider. We were soon back and we got our share of the breakfast that most had now enjoyed. Thanks Jules it was a great success! Before long each couple headed their own way down to the town for several hours of free time until we met at the Skyline Gondola at 2:30pm for a journey up to Tom's Peak. We all took on the challenge of the steep walk down the hill.
Celebrating Queenstown Day 12 - Pt2: It was a little journey into 'Lord of the Rings' countryside and just a stones throw from civilization. The Wild West end of the walk really got the senses tingling as the wind and water crashed into the pines. Eventually you make your way out to the edge of the golf course and the scene changes again. One final 'medusa' like metal sculpture responding as if affected by the breeze and we had circumnavigated the course in just over an hour. This with plenty of photo stops and laughs along the way. This got us back to Byrnesy and his BBQ breakfast. All had gone well; his fire was raging and he'd made a friend to share his BBQ with. We had a quick chat with Louie, his new friend. For some reason I was left to put out the fire and did so with a bag of water from the lake. We jumped in the bus and headed back for Julie's hot breakfast. Something she wanted to do as part of her contribution to the week, although she had already done & offered plenty.
Celebrating Queenstown Day 12 - Pt1: People began stirring early for the first time this week. A hardy band of 8 of us were heading off at 8:00am to walk the Kelvin Peninsula Track around the golf course - Dave C, Anne, Dave F, Jan, Margo, Jon and myself. Steve came too but he was insisting on a BBQ breakfast by the lake - each to their own. This was our last chance to squeeze this in with the bus due back today at 11:00am and this our last full day in Queenstown. Another beautiful day greeted us, but all could feel the temperature dropping and the wind was up. We left on time and made the Peninsula by 8:20am. 7 set off and Steve set about building his fire with wet wood from the overnight rain. What a fantastic walk. Offering great views of the lake; Queenstown; mountains; our paradise on the hill; pine forests; wind and water. For most of the walk you would not even know you were on the edge of a golf course. Several spots surprised us with statues of goats; stone & metal creatures.

27 April 2017

Cardrona, Wanaka, Cromwell Day 11 - Pt3: After our lunch in Wanaka we headed for a stroll through town. It is a beautiful spot. We hit the road and headed back to Queenstown via Cromwell. We stopped in at the Highlands Motorsports Park with all its car racing action. It was the end of the day, so all was pretty quiet, but we could see there was a lot to do here. Dave F always enjoys showing us a race track. We headed to Frankton shops one last time to grab some breakfast supplies. We helped a young fellow with a flat battery who worked at the Hilton. From here it was home for a quiet night and all getting ready for the final full day in Queenstown. Plans were put in place for the last day with a cooked breakfast, courtesy of Julie and a walk out around the peninsula across the bay. With things set we drifted off to bed - some early and some late. The girls always lasted longer - the fellas mostly went early.
Cardrona, Wanaka, Cromwell Day 11 - Pt2: Their whiskey was still 10 years away from being ready, but you could reserve a barrel for $10 500 and call it your own. The vodka and gin were beautiful, but at $110 and $120 a pop we stuck with just a thank you bottle for Pauline. She had put this week together and in the process encouraged many of us to explore NZ further, which many had done and were to do further. We had all had a ball and there was more to come. Pauline had done a tremendous job getting us here and pointed out so many great places for us to visit. The entry to this place also had a 100m fence called 'Bradrona'. You guessed it, more bras. A whole fence line with literally hundreds of bras. Not sure why, but maybe something in the gin. Our girls offered no new contributions. From here we ended up in Wanaka and a late lunch at the Lake Bar. The servings were huge and many struggled to finish. Still yet again great service, but hardly ever a New Zealander serving us.
Cardrona, Wanaka, Cromwell Day 11 - Pt1: Our night at Botswana Butchery finished up well and we walked up to the bus and headed up the hill and home. I headed off to ice my aching elbow and I could hear the laughter above as another night of quizzes took over. The morning showed the first signs of the weather getting cooler. A forecast change was advising that icy weather was on the way. Still we had no rain and just a bit more cloud than usual, but sunshine and blue sky was still easy to spot. We got going at about 10:00am and headed for Wanaka via Cardrona. We stopped at a stunning lookout along the alpine route to Wanaka before we stopped at the 1863 Cardrona Pub for coffee and cheese scones. What a character filled place with paraphernalia of all types hanging from the walls and ceilings - A money wall and bra display caught many an eye. We then called in on a gin distillery established in 2015 - The Cardrona Distillery. Tried a great single malt vodka and gin here.

26 April 2017

Our Wow Day in Queenstown Day 10 - Pt5: At one point we passed an Al Fresco restaurant where I went left of the tables and the two boys went right. Bad move for me as a small dip in the pavers in the dusky light saw me come a cropper. As I lost my footing down I went. I could not get anything ready for the impact and crashed body first on the paved surface. My right hand and elbow took the bulk of the impact. I jumped up quickly as a staff member came to check if I was OK along with Dave and Dave. I said I was OK and moved on quickly my body aching. Still lucky. It appeared nothing was cut; torn or broken - Just pain. We made the restaurant and what followed was a night of great food and great service. All were impressed with the food and all the plans and changes to plans to get here all worked out well. They even reset us back to a table of 12 even though we had heard this did not always get the best servings. No one had any complaints. They even itemized every individuals food.
Our Wow Day in Queenstown Day 10 - Pt4: We stayed a short while at the Gibbston Valley Winery - well worth the visit. We now headed back to Queenstown, no more than 30 minutes away. We decided we had time to head around to the golf course that sat across the lake from our home on the hill, 'Paradise on the Hill' its official title. We turned left towards the airport and across the old bridge with all its road works for the new bridge construction. We wound up and over the hill along Kelvin Peninsula until we reached the parkland which had the golf course. We got out and identified our home from across the lake before driving up to the golf club house. From here it was home to prepare for our night at Botswana Butchery. A famous, but none too cheap, local restaurant. We drove down to the town and a few went looking for ATMs to cover what we all thought would be expensive. The two Dave's and I then headed for the restaurant down through one of the quaint lane ways.
Our Wow Day in Queenstown Day 10 - Pt3: Our half an hour all but up; faces numb; dripping with icy spray, Mike threw us into one final 360 before docking. At this point, as we disembarked, Dave C was lamenting that he had lasted until the final 360. Unfortunately his hat had departed and was now cascading down the Shotover leaving a lasting impression. We headed up to the cafe to relive the thrill and get something warm into our systems. Thank goodness it wasn't the -30 degree wind chill experience Mike says you can get in the winter, where the water turns to ice as it hits you. We moved on up the road and called into the Kawarau Bridge Bungee to take a look. Wow! You could watch this all day as people plunged off the bridge in the most beautiful of scenes. One guy even got dunked in the river below. From here it was another short run to the Gibbston Valley Winery for some cheese tasting and gift shopping.
Our Wow Day in Queenstown Day 10 - Pt2: We headed down to the beach area along the river and waited for our call for our 12:15pm booking. As we were early they got us on the 11:45am trip. We put on all the wet weather gear they supply and life jackets; stored our valuables and all 10 of us boarded the Red Hamilton Jet Boat. The next half an hour we were in the hands of 'Toppo' Mike, an 11 year veteran of skippering these powerful machines up and down this section of the Shotover River. We were to find out later he is one of the best and an ex-hairdresser. He certainly lives his job. We flew up and down the river coming within, what seemed like inches, from rocks and logs lying in the water. The boat skimmed across the water needing a bare 10cm of clearance to clear the shallows. Submerged rocks were so easily seen just below the surface. All were ready for the times a spinning finger meant a mad 360. Sometimes in areas so narrow you felt this an impossibility - Breathless!
Our Wow Day in Queenstown Day 10 - Pt1: Pauline and Jon headed off today towards Clyde to catch up with old friends. This left us all to our own devices today and what a day we put together. We started by heading down to town to book the Shotover Jet at $129 per person. Most had their own stories of doing this or not since it's beginnings in 1965. Julie and Danny tried in 1979, but on the day they chose the boat had broken down. We did it in 1985 on our honeymoon. Anne and Dave did it in 1987, when their son Anthony was 8 months. For the others it would be a new experience and long ago for us that a lot had been forgotten. We headed out along the road passing a few of the places we had already visited - Coronet Peak and Millbrook Golf Course. This reminded me that the KFC skating duck - 'The bird is the word' was filmed on the Coronet Peak road. We took just 10 minutes to reach the Shotover River site below the Edith Cavell Bridge. I parked the bus and the adventure began.

25 April 2017

Glenorchy & Middle Earth Day 9 - Pt2: A few hours here and we headed back to town where we parked and each went for an explore. I went with Lisa for a hot chocolate at Patagonias down on the waterfront. Julie, Anne and eventually Jan, Pauline and Margo joined us. The boys went for a beer, but Jon wanted to explore his old home by himself for a while. When finished we headed back to the bus. The girls got subdued in the odd shop, but before long we were back in the bus and on the way up the hill and home. Dave F got to work in the kitchen preparing for a pasta night and Jon put on a bit of a chef knife skill demo. All lead into another relaxed night of laughter and friendly chat.
Glenorchy & Middle Earth Day 9 - Pt1: ANZAC Day in Queenstown saw Anne and Dave walk down to town for the 9:30 march. The rest did not get moving in time, but all were inspired to get moving. We jumped in the bus and headed out along the lake to the little township of Glenorchy just 44km away. It was a feast of mountains, water and sunshine as we travelled along the lake, stopping here and there for views and photos. A lovely Asian couple took a great photo of us with Mt Aspiring behind. We made the small town of Glenorchy and based ourselves at the pub. At different times groups wandered off to explore the town for a leisurely afternoon. A hobbit tour bus parked in the street as a reminder that some movie sites were in this area.

24 April 2017

Road Tripping the Queenstown Hinterland Day 8 - Pt4: We headed towards home from here with the busy day almost at an end. We called into the local Countdown (Woolworths) Store to get some meat and salad for dinner. Byrnesy BBQ'd the meat with Danny's help and the girls got the salads and table organised. We were really enjoying these home cooked meals. Others began to work out ways to share photos and a few mishaps caused plenty a laugh as the technology bamboozled a few of us. A great night of chat and laughter ensued. Pauline began a big trivia quiz from stuff she got off her IPad and all relaxed into the evening. It had been a very full day and all had loved what Queenstown and surrounds delivered.
Road Tripping the Queenstown Hinterland Day 8 - Pt3: We were to find out later that the VIPs at the course were from the FBI, and the big boss, director James Comey, who had been in the news of late was around. We also found out that Tiger Woods had played here and in the last month this course hosted the NZ Open and will for the next few years also. From here we headed to Arrowtown. This is one of the jewels in the crown of the area. A beautiful little historic town with charm aplenty. We wandered the streets as all did their own thing for an hour or more. The Autumn colours in the surrounding hills highlighted further the beauty of this place. From here we ended at Amisfield Cellars and some took part in some wine tasting. This we did again at Wet Jacket in an old tin shed a little further down the road. There was a bit of cheese tasting to be had here also. Dave F got talking to a guy parked out on the road in a vintage Ferrari. This was the car used in Ferris Beullers Day Off.
Road Tripping the Queenstown Hinterland Day 8 - Pt2: Some quick talking on the boys part convinced the workers that there was no barrier and no signs warning them away. They were given the benefit of the doubt, but the lift was turned off and they were forced to walk all the way back down. Of course we got a rather exaggerated alternative story about keys being confiscated; angry workers and police on their way, but none of this washed with many. The childish adventure now over we moved on up the road to Millbrook Golf Course. Pauline just wanted us to take a quick detour through here so we could see how beautiful this golf estate was, but it turned into much more than this. It was a stunning place and we just had to stop to have a look and ended up in the beautiful stone cafe for coffee and cake. This was a very classy establishment. We were intrigued with the police presence and security staff roaming the property. A few fruitless enquiries made, but little info was forthcoming.
Road Tripping the Queenstown Hinterland Day 8 - Pt1: Loving the leisurely starts to the days and the early morning conversations. Jon was in early to discuss his epiphany about life and the new world order in Queenstown. Pauline was in next with cheese scones. Such was the diversity of the mornings activities upon waking. When ready we headed out to explore beyond Queenstown. Our first stop with our ex-local guides, Pauline and Jon, was the scenic Coronet Peak. A ski field by winter and scenic lookout and hang glider launch site in summer. Crews were around readying the place for the upcoming winter. In doing so a number of chairlifts were running, but with no supervision. Byrnesy and Dave F decided these were fair game for a ride; whilst others felt it was not such a good idea. Regardless they jumped on the unsupervised chairlift and mountainside they went. Some stayed to watch the outcome and some did not. There arrival at the manned summit saw the workers none too impressed.
Queenstown Orientation Day 7 - Pt5: Upon the tying up at the dock of the Earnslaw we all headed up to where I had parked the bus, or so we thought. When we got there we were short Julie, Margo and Byrnesy. No one had any idea where they had gone. We all hopped in the bus and headed back along the road to the point we had left the boat. There was no sign of them anywhere. We drove on wondering where they may have got too, before we turned back to look again. We were looking out for Julie's red jacket, when Danny advised she was no longer wearing it when she got off the boat. We were now looking for her wearing black. We didn't have to go back far before spotting them on the building side of the road. We stopped and picked them up and waited for their story. It appears Byrnesy had thought the bus was elsewhere and had walked them all in the wrong direction. Luckily they realised and headed back and luckily we decided to go looking for them. Reunited all was now good with the world.

23 April 2017

Queenstown Orientation Day 7 - Pt4: We arrived at a beautifully kept homestead with easily 150 others. Intimate it was not. We were shown our places at a large well decorated table right in the middle of one of the dining rooms. From here we received the most fantastic service as the well organised buffet service was begun. Once we had been given the go we set about traveling back and forth for the various courses on offer. Smoked salmon; prawns; clams; salads; cheeses and more for entree. Every type of BBQ meat one could wish for including venison and mussels. The meat was definitely the highlight. Then creme brûlée; sticky date; lemon meringue; cakes lollies and ice cream to finish. Byrnesy had us convinced an old lady called Iris was the owner and she played along. After dinner we headed over to the shearing shed for a sheepdog demonstration and shearing under lights, before heading back to the boat and the trip home. It had been a fabulous night.
Queenstown Orientation Day 7 - Pt3: We made our way back to the houses and all relaxed before the night ahead. Tonight we were heading out on the old steam ship that has called Lake Wakatipu its home for many years. The TSS Earnslaw would take us across the lake to Walter Peak Sheep Station for a BBQ dinner. We headed down to the busy CBD and the northern side of the lake to drop off and park the bus. We passed the famous Fergburger hamburger shop with a horde of customers queued up down the street. We dropped all off and Jon and I continued up the road to park the bus as Jon pointed out many of the changes to Queenstown from the time when he and Pauline used to work in the area. The change for them has been dramatic and not necessarily for the better. We parked in a small circular car park on the lake and got the last available spot. We then headed back to join the others. We arrived just as boarding took place and for the next 50 minutes travelled out to the farm.
Queenstown Orientation Day 7 - Pt2: The two Daves headed off to return Dave C's hire car in town and Byrnesy and I took the bus for its first run. We had no navigation as I forgot to load up the maps, but somehow we guessed our way back up the hill to our homes. No one was home so we headed into town and parked in the park with its free parking for four hours. We walked down along the windy waterfront and noticed Botswana Butchery, a recommended restaurant we wanted to try. We had tried to book from Oz, but no one had had any luck. Byrnesy decided to go in and see what he could wrangle. No problems! He got us a booking on Wednesday night at 5:30pm. Not cheap, but hey a once only. We wandered up to the mall to hope we could track down the group, only to walk straight into them. We all headed up to the Pig & Whistle Pub for some lunch and more craft beer. All were in good spirits. We then headed back along the windy waterfront to the bus where we went for a run along the waters edge.
Queenstown Orientation Day 7 - Pt1: The first group dinner last night went well after our happy chook hunt. As all settled into the new surrounds and conversation slowed one by one people disappeared to bed. Another fine, but decidedly cooler day, arrived on Sunday. The houses both woke slowly as each found themselves something from the supplies bought to satisfy for breakfast. Eventually Dave F, Steve, Dave C and I headed back to the airport to get our Hertz 12-Seater, whilst the girls, Danny and Jon readied themselves to tour the town. We got to the Hertz counter to find we had to ring for service. It was not too long until someone turned up. Whilst I waited the boys went for a coffee. I sorted out the paperwork and Steve and Dave F came back to add themselves as drivers. With all this sorted we all ended up back at the coffee shop for a chat. The conversation was mostly about hire car disasters from our respective pasts. Maybe not the best topic before we headed off.
Moving South Day 6 - Pt4: The journey into town for the shopping party - we 6 men - made us all realize just how busy Queenstown is. The traffic; crowds and parking were phenomenal for such a small place. Certainly busier than anywhere else in NZ. We found the Four Square supermarket and Jon went straight for the BBQ chickens. They were surrounded by a few ummers and ahmers, and only about half a dozen birds left. Jon had no doubt what he was after and dove in between this indecisive group and began handing chickens back to me without the bat of an eyelid. I stood like a rugby halfback waiting for the ball as chickens were delivered one by one until four in total. I watched the expression of one lady, a member of the indecisive group, change as she saw tonight's dinner disappear out the back of Jon's hand. We had our chooks and were off, with all those behind left with the smell of what might have been to satisfy them. We headed for our beer to celebrate a successful hunt.

22 April 2017

Moving South Day 6 - Pt3: We arrived at the baggage carousel to find Margo and Steve waiting. Their flight from Auckland had come in just before ours. Anne forwarded the address and we headed out to grab a mini cab. The driver, Garry was very chatty, and gave us a few good travel tips before winding his way up the steep hills to 3 Bolton Place. We arrived to find Anne, Dave, Danny, Julie, Jan and Dave all settled in with Baileys all round. We joined the festivities as we all relaxed and shared the stories from our travels. The view across to the Remakables was just that as all were taken by the beauty of the scene beyond the windows. The two mirror reflection houses we had rented were stunning. Pauline and Jon were the last ones in, but arrived with supplies to keep the restless and weary happy. Rooms were sorted and dinner organised. The men all headed down to the town to gather dinner - BBQ chooks and salad. A small detour into the Speights Ale House was enjoyed before home.
Moving South Day 6 - Pt2: The flight was just 40 minutes and we were touching down in Christchurch. Here we had a lengthy wait from about 10:45am until 1:45pm for our next flight to Queenstown. We found a comfy lounge for Lisa to relax and rested until it was time to move on again. All were now well on their way for the next big gathering. Steve and Margo were flying in from a week in Auckland; Julie and Danny had notified they were at Sydney Airport about to board; Jan and Dave had landed in Christchurch yesterday and hit the road for Queenstown as soon as arriving; Anne and Dave were working their way across from Dunedin and Pauline and Jon were somewhere driving down the rugged west coast hoping to arrive today. By the afternoon all would be together in two side-by-side houses Pauline had organised in Queenstown. The flight to Queenstown was smooth and uneventful, but for amazing views the whole way. We had been at airports from 8:30am to 3:00pm for just 70 minutes in the air.
Moving South Day 6 - Pt1: After farewell for friends Chris and Danny last night we all but closed the book on Nelson some 32 years between visits. Saturday came and it came with some bumps. Lisa had had the worst of nights and was vomiting and in pain. She managed to get through the difficult night, but it meant little sleep for both, but more so for her. She was still sore come morning and we had to decide if she was up to a day of travel. She was willing to give it a try. We packed up and farewelled our beautiful hostess, Kay, and her gorgeous little cottage on the hill where we had stayed. The car was due back at the airport by 8:30am, a point I forgot to check until the morning. I backed out the steep and precarious drive for the final time and took the leisurely 9 minute drive to the airport. All went well with arrivals, returns and check ins and Lisa was holding it all together, despite numerous comfort visits. We boarded our prop plane at 9:50am and headed off on time.
Another Beautiful in Nelson Day 5 - Pt4: After assisting Trudy and we were back in the car, I also had to explain the brochure in my hand. Ford makes and hires portable cabins that people use on their properties when short of space. He had just delivered one and was filling me in. Before leaving he gave me his card and a brochure. Figures - lend a hand - hire a shed. Life is interesting here on the road. We had dropped Chris and Danny off for a short break, whilst we sorted our washing. A job that ended up not needing our attention. So we just as quickly headed back to town for one last meal with friends in Nelson. We met up in the Main Street and then headed up to Bacco for a final get together. We all thanked each other for the company and especially how they put their lives on hold for a couple of days to join us and show us around. Who knows when a meeting like this might happen again. We wished Danny well with his back/hip which had kept him off work and headed off. Thank you!

21 April 2017

Another Beautiful in Nelson Day 5 - Pt3: Before we made it home to get the washing we passed a van with a trailer with its hazard lights on. Chris asked me to stop as she thought she saw a body on the ground. We did and she rushed back, being a nurse, to offer assistance. She was right. An old lady had fallen on the road as she got out of her car. The other vehicle with the trailer had also stopped to help. Lisa and Danny stayed in the car as I also went back to help. By now Chris and another had got the lady up and were heading into the house. I waited on the street and began chatting to Ford (like the car). He owned the car and trailer and it was his wife who helped Chris in with the old lady. We had a nice chat before his wife came out and they went. I headed in to see if Chris was alright. I ended up in the house where all was under control and Chris had reassured and assisted Trudy, the lady, with all her needs. Soon we were back on the road and heading to our washing.
Another Beautiful in Nelson Day 5 - Pt2: Kay had mentioned she was heading to Monaco, no not OS, but a suburb of Nelson. Chris and Danny said it is a nice spot on the water, so took us there. We saw the Mercure and went to the Honest Lawyer Pub for a coffee. From here we headed out to Richmond and went to the Grape Seed, a cafe and gift store. A very funny Englishman served us and we had a few laughs. He sounded just like Jamie Oliver. From here it was up the road again to Eyebright a country gift store with a few animals, including a Guinea Pig farm set up in its own medieval kingdom of Wendelton. A story of power and greed evolves on the story posts as you travel around the circular viewing area. We headed back to Nelson now as it was getting close to 6:00pm. The day had been filled with activity and local sights. We had to get back to get the washing in. Lucky for us our hostess Kay had done it all for us. What great service, delivered, folded and certainly not part of the price.
Another Beautiful in Nelson Day 5 - Pt1: I say this as this whole area has had some terrible weather of late, but not for our visit. We were up, and with Kay's help, put a load of washing through. Even the clothesline came with a view. Friends Jon and Pauline popped in on their way to Queenstown. They had quite a drive ahead of them to be there by Saturday. They met Kay; we showed them around; had a few laughs as stories were shared and then they headed off. We headed down to the marina to look around, but found it more an industrial area. From here we went to pick up Danny and Chris as they had decided to stay on another day as all was going well for Danny and his bad back. We headed out for another fun filled day. This began with lunch along the waterfront of Tahunanui Beach at the Styx Restaurant. We shared more stories of life and travels; family and friends as we enjoyed our day and the company that came from a chance meeting in 2014. From here we headed out on the road.

20 April 2017

A Full Day in Nelson Day 4 - Pt4: Had to put up a bit more of the amazing World of Wearable Art and Classic Cars Museum. This art show, on display here, is part of a whole stage production when it is released each year and has been going since 1987. I'd never heard of it before. Our friend Chris actually went to the show which was in Wellington last year. The stage production is run like a Cirque de Soleil fashion show and began with a huge Weta produced tiger talking to the audience. You get to sit in a theatre and watch a half an hour replay of this show at the end of the display. It, along with the cars, just about has something for everyone. Loved the old Zephyr and Morris Minor as a reminder of family cars from my youth, owned by Dad. Memories!!!
A Full Day in Nelson Day 4 - Pt3: We chatted; drank some more and had burgers for lunch as we sat in the sunshine outside the pub and near the cathedral. We relived many old stories from the trip and caught up on life over the past three years. When lunch was over we headed out to the amazing WOW Museum (World of Wearable Art), which also had a classic car museum attached. It was an amazing mix of fashion and cars. A special favourite was the outfit made of buckets. After pushing this out to closing time we then headed out of Nelson to the township of Mapua, about 20 minutes north of Nelson. This eclectic little township has become quite popular in recent times, sitting opposite Rabbit Island. Here we shared another fine meal with them at the Apple Shed Restaurant. The conversation and laughter continued all night until we called it quits and headed back to town. It had been quite a day and we had enjoyed Nelson in more ways than we thought possible with a varied mix of activities.
A Full Day in Nelson Day 4 - Pt2: However the meeting with Pauline and Jon looked unlikely today as they headed for the vineyards at Cloudy Bay. We hoped to try them tomorrow, before they left for our eventual rendezvous again in Queenstown. Whilst we waited for Danny and Chris we went through the Nelson Japanese Gardens. We wandered around here for a while before walking up the road to the Founders Village. This is a historic site where they have saved and rebuilt many local buildings from all over the area to create a working village. We enjoyed strolling through the site and found ourselves settled into the oldest brewery in the area. The 1854 Founders Brewery. Here I tasted their samples mix of six of their best. Not sure it was a wise move at 11:00am, but enjoyed it anyway, whilst Lisa disappeared to sponge off her spilt coffee stains. We got the call that Danny and Chris were here and headed into the The Vic Brewbar to meet them. It was like old times and the talk began.
A Full Day in Nelson Day 4 - Pt1: It was nice to have a sleep in today and not have to rush anywhere. Nelson greeted us with another glorious day as Dave Crewdson messaged in to see if we were alright. Anne and Dave were down in Dunedin and had heard that 3-4 small tremors had hit Nelson overnight. This was news to us as we must have slept through it all. The easy going morning allowed us to take in the beautiful surrounds of the little one bedroom cottage we were in. Kay had already disappeared for the day and we never saw her all day. We had some time to kill as friends Danny and Chris were coming in today from Havelock, where they live. We had met this couple on a tour of Turkey in 2014 for all of two weeks and had never seen them again apart from some email contact. This trip gave us the chance to call them and today was to be our first real contact in nearly three years. Friends Pauline and Jon were, by chance, staying in Havelock. We were trying to catch up with them also.

19 April 2017

Nelson Day Three - Pt2: We made Nelson by about 2:00pm to be greeted by Kay our Air BnB host. She was very friendly and showed us the cute little cottage that would be ours for the next 3 days. It sat up St Vincent St in the suburb of Toi Toi on one side of the valley that was home to Nelson. It was a great view down towards the town. We unpacked, had a rest and then wandered down into Nelson - A good 25 minute walk. We ended up at The Vic Brewbar right near the cathedral. I had a Mac's Honey Bee Mead and Lisa a Kopiko Sauv. It helped wash down the shared calimari that was lunch. Everywhere here has their own craft beers. One of Nelson's big industries. From here we wandered through the town. The quaint Queen's Garden was pretty and then up a nearby hill in the Botanic Reserve to what surveyors call the 'Centre of NZ'. What a view! We were puffed but glad we made the effort. We wandered down to Hopgoods Restaurant for a hearty meal before the walk home. Good weather still!
Nelson Day Three - Pt1: We were woken by the loading of the two buses outside our window at 7:30. I got moving and we both got ourselves organised and out for breakfast. We were on the road by 10:00am. Off we set for a 3 hour and 45 minute drive up the coast and then inland and north to Nelson. This was a stunning drive from foam to fern to flax and then to palm, pine and pandanus the scenery changed and along with it the vegetation. Early it was all the rugged west coast and then inland along the Buller River. Just too many places to stop for photos. Ran into a bit of roadwork and a few stop and go men/women along the way. One old fellow was up for a chat so we wound down the window and heard his tails from the road. At another point an eagle was sitting out in the middle of our lane feasting on some road kill. He refused to move so we had to slow. He was playing chicken with us. He only budged once we got to a metre away. He let us pass and then was straight back to finish.

18 April 2017

Tranzalpine, Greymouth & Punakaiki Day Two - Pt6: Our day ended with a stroll down the road back to the resort. The sun setting across the rocky and secluded beach that fronted the isolated surrounds. We headed off for an early dinner at the resort. Great food and again the friendliest of waiters. We sparked up some lengthy chats after we were mistakenly served the wrong food, but exactly what we intended to order, before we had even told them. They were all aware of the strange 'faux pas' and all had a chat and a laugh along with us each time one or another came near our table. They seemed to appreciate our good humour about it. Enjoyed another local brew in Monteith's Golden brewed in Greymouth with a very nice Pinot Gris from Kopiko Bay. Dinner and laughter over we headed off for an early night before re we hit the road again tomorrow for Nelson.
Tranzalpine, Greymouth & Punakaiki Day Two - Pt5: A short rest was had before we headed up 400m along the road to the Pancake Rock viewing area and part of the National Park. We walked down a bitumen path between the NZ Flax that was thick as thick. There was no wandering off this path. A number of lookouts lined the route revealing some amazing rock formations, none less than the strange pancake stacking that appeared everywhere. This was a fabulous well organised trail that continually revealed more from blowhole; to rock bridges; to surge pools and even a NZ equivalent to the Three Sisters. We were quite impressed with all this half an hour walk revealed and the vegetation was incredible. The National Parks office and other shops around the parking area had closed by now as it was late in the day, but visitors still arrived. A donation only on your exit is all they ask. No commitment required. The only shop still open was the cafe. No surprise as to what they specialized in.
Tranzalpine, Greymouth & Punakaiki Day Two - Pt4: Once off the train we joined the mad, but orderly scramble to grab our bags from the back baggage car. Far better than the crazy 'every man for himself' system we had seen in Europe. From here we went and picked up our hire car in the station office they had set up. We ended up with a grey Mazda 3 just like the one at home. Happy with that result. Nothing to get used to here. We then had a quick walk around Greymouth and a coffee before hitting the road. We only had about 40km to head up the coast road to Punakaiki Resort. This is home to the famous 'pancake rocks'. A strange formation where the rocks look like stacked and layered pancakes. We took our time on the road as we were being blessed with gorgeous weather and pulled in to a number of roadside stops to view the coastline. It was great. We arrived at around 3:30pm at the resort before a well earned rest. It had been an impressive morning.
Tranzalpine, Greymouth & Punakaiki Day Two - Pt3: Arthur's Pass is named after the first European to cross here in 1864, Sir Arthur Dudley Dobson. For the rest of the journey we almost had the whole carriage to ourselves. We now went through the Otira tunnel, once the longest tunnel in the British Empire. This was back in 1923. Today it is the 45th longest tunnel in the world and will soon be 46th when a new 57km tunnel is completed under the alps in Switzerland. You leave the tunnel to be in a very different mountain landscape. The hills are now no longer covered in dry grasses and low shrubs, but are leafy green and covered with trees. The mist had now given way to blue skies and sunshine. We passed along the shore of Lake Brunner, the largest in this region and after 5 hours pulled into the township of Greymouth. It was not that impressive to us back in 1984 and unfortunately still had that affect, despite some new buildings. It is called the Wild West Coast for a reason.
Tranzalpine, Greymouth & Punakaiki Day Two - Pt2: As we rose into the mountains many began working their way through the carriage to the open air viewing carriage. We too found ourselves moving forward for the spectacular views, less window reflection. The crowded viewing car gave up little space to view the aqua, grey and ice blue river side to get too many good shots. Still we persisted and as the mist closed in and the temperatures dropped it became too cold here for many. Lisa headed back to the warmth and comfort of her seat also. I stayed to a point where there were only about five brave, but cold, souls left. Now I got plenty of opportunity to take unhindered photos. It was one for the senses in more ways than one. We eventually reached Arthur's Pass where the train stopped and two-thirds of our carriage left for good. I will miss those selfie sticks. Arthur's Pass is 920 metres above sea level and the highest of three routes across the Southern Alps.
Tranzalpine, Greymouth & Punakaiki Day Two - Pt1: The new day began with the 6:30 alarm shattering the peace. We were up and ready for our host to follow through with his offer of taking us on the short run to the Addington train station to board our 8:15am train across the country to Greymouth. The Tranzalpine is said to be one of the great train journeys of the world. All went smoothly with arrival and boarding and the train left on time. We sat in car E thinking we had joined a Japanese bus tour. We hadn't, but it was an interesting experience as selfie sticks and mobile devices could be seen and heard hovering above seats and clicking and beeping away. We had not been going even half an hour when we were held up at the weighbridge near Rolleston for a good 15 minutes. I headed for the food car to sort out some breakfast as Lisa rested after yet another sleepless night. The train moved on and the urban landscape opened up into flat farmland fields. The mountains lay ahead.

17 April 2017

Christchurch Day One - Pt6: A Mountain Goat - unfortunately, not from NZ, but a Melbourne import, but much enjoyed before testing myself on some local drops. The 1946 Pilsener - Crisp, cold and tasty. Finally the Milk Stout made by Cassells and Sons - This was like a porter and was sweet and smooth. Lisa tested a whiskey and coke and a very nice Sauvignon Blanc (times two); before we both finished with an Espresso Martini to really delve into the holiday spirits. All the while our musician friend belted out hits like and from: Copperhead Road; Chasing Cars - Snow Patrol; The Eagles; Supertramp; Neil Young; Split Enz; John Mayer; James Blunt; Lord; Tracie Chapman; Ed Sheeran; Credence; Green Day; Matchbox 20; Cat Stevens; Queen; Diamond; Dylan and more. We chatted to one staff member from Chicago, and before jumping in a Uber, declared we would be back when the last night of our trip, in a couple of weeks, would see us back in Christchurch. Day One - massive tick.
Christchurch Day One - Pt5: His song list became a game of name that song and guess that artist as we spent a few hours here becoming 'besties' with the Andy Cap hatted staff with their beards and good humour. Nick, the owner, introduced himself to us and we chatted about this amazing bar he had established. A carpenter by trade and Christchurch local, he made his wealth from working in the West Australian mining boom. Came home, leased the bar area of this old government building; bought an apartment in the building and redeveloped this character filled bar/cafe with his own hands. We loved the plaque on the wall he pointed to dedicated to his departed dad. He would be very proud of him. The other staff were all just as friendly as our quiet drink became dinner, coffee and dessert as I worked my way through a couple of interesting beers as follows:
Christchurch Day One - Pt4: Many stunning new buildings surrounded the construction sites and one became unsure what was going up and what was coming down at times. The Restart area was an interesting blend of shops and cafes all constructed from shipping containers and we enjoyed wandering through this eclectic mix of shops, murals and sculpture. Many murals were being used throughout the city to brighten it up. We moved on to Cathedral Square and the full impact of the 2010/11 earthquakes was now in your face. The destroyed and deconsecrated cathedral took centre stage amongst other damaged and dormant buildings. A group of men played large chess in the square as people moved around this eerie and sombre space. We found an amazing hotel here called The Heritage and stopped in for a beer; spirit; wine and cocktail as it and its pleasant staff helped us wind down and wind up into holiday mode. A fabulous musician plus his guitar took us through many old and new favourites.
Christchurch Day One - Pt3: We realized our choice of hotel most probably did not require this as it was not far from anywhere in Christchurch to reach the railway. Our host was a friendly little Asian man (sorry did not get his name). The minute he heard we would need the train tomorrow he offered to drop us there at 7:30am. We were taken by his generous offer. We settled into our tidy room and then headed down into town on foot along Lincoln St and through Hagley Park. Being Easter Monday all was very quiet. People were about, but only in small numbers. A few joggers; a couple of PT sessions running in the park and the odd sightseer. It did begin to look like a deserted city. As we reached the beautiful Avon River we began to recall our last visit here at the end of our honeymoon in 1985, where we too paddled along the river in a little row boat. We moved closer to the City Centre and things began to change. Roadworks, barricades and construction were dominant.
Christchurch Day One - Pt2: Lisa's memory of her lost bag on the final leg home from Portugal in 2015 still lives large in her mind. Bag here and safe, equals happy Lisa. We were sold a ride in a shuttle bus service that was sitting outside the terminal. All was good with this, but the Uber quote of about a 15 minute trip to our hotel pushed out to 50 minutes in the shuttle. Still we got to see a bit of Christchurch suburbia and it looked impressive. Little sign of an earthquake ravaged city and some beautiful homes to boot as the shuttle did some 'to your door' deliveries, for the same price as a taxi. It was like an open top bus tour without the commentary; the open top and, well... nothing like an open top bus tour really and it took too long. We arrived safely at the Addington Court Motel. A simple, tidy and cheap motel up Lincoln St, just beyond Hagley Park, which connects with the city. It was chosen simply for its closeness to the railway line needed for tomorrow.
Christchurch Day One - Pt1: Our departure was much needed and a great success. To get out of Sydney and have some genuine R&R is much anticipated. What has happened to my life that I can be on holidays, but work on school work every day until leaving on this trip? A sad indictment of the corporatizing of education. Oh well! Enough of the political whine. Holidays are here. We got to the airport by 6:20 thanks to our beautiful daughter Aimee who rose at the crack of dawn to get us there on time. The continual construction at the airport saw confusing signage and redirected roads make us reach the car park at our second attempt. Bags checked and a quick coffee with Aim and off she headed for a catch up with old friends and a long drive to Canberra. Thanks Aimee! We had a lovely weekend with you, your brother Sam, Alex and the family. The Emirates flight got away late, but as always made up most of that time in the air. Lisa was relieved to be on the ground and see her bag arrive.