Europe, Asia, Australia and Oceania · 6 Days · 49 Moments · February 2017

Nostalgic New Zealand

16 February 2017

One last stop before reaching Milford Sounds itself.
Our coach has a glass ceiling and you can see why - the scenery here is on a big scale! It's tempting to keep taking photos of every mountain and every waterfall. Just brilliant.
It's not difficult to take professional looking photos here. NZ had really pulled out all the stops today. Just simply stunning. These are the mirror pools - aptly named!
Onwards towards Milford Sound and the scenery starts to get quite frankly ridiculous. This is knobs flat (queue 12 year old boy snigger).
Another early start today (we're so good at these) as we're off to the Milford Sound on a day trip. I've been twice before (I think) and once was on a 4 day hike (hard core family holiday). I remember it being very wet but very beautiful. It's a long drive but as always not at all boring as there is so much to look at. Our first stop is Te Anau which I've stayed in before. On a recommendation we bought a pie each (and a V... obvs). Best pie I've ever had!! A quick look at the stunning lake and a silly photo and we were off again. It doesn't appear to be raining today...

15 February 2017

The Rapids started gently and we learnt all the commands "back paddle back paddle!!" It got much more exciting at the big Rapids section and we almost died several times but thankfully did capsize. However at the bottom of one rapid a few boats did capsize, onto the rocks. We became the rescuers and went about saving all the bodies floating about. I even pulled out one girl by myself. We then went about collecting stray paddles. We got quite a collection. The poor people who fell out were quite shaken up. One had somehow ended up clinging to a rock sobbing. Luckily nobody was seriously injured. My first white water rafting experience was in NZ and somebody broke a leg... so we were doing quite well. Such a great time was had by all and we wished we could go round again!! Afterwards we shared a beer with our rafting pals. We met a lovely Aussie couple on their honeymoon who we had dinner with later on.
This afternoon we thought we'd have a rest. Just kidding. A white water rafting afternoon! New Zealand has some of the best Rapids in the world and having done white water rafting in Switzerland, the UAE (fake Rapids) and Montenegro I was excited to get some decent grade Rapids. These are 3-4 (JB had only done 1-2 before). The trip to the rapids was brilliant, a hairy ride up the skippers canyon - a single track road that clings to the cliff and the wheels of a truck a few inches from plumping to certain death. I remember Dad driving up here once with Mum gripping her seat with cries of "Rob rob rob" every time we went round a bend. There was an unfortunate sized lady in the party who was picked out by "the chief" (massive Maori bloke in charge) "aye where's the big gurl. You come ride with the big boys aye". Made us chuckle.
What a morning! Back in Queenstown we ate lunch by the lake and enjoyed another sunny morning. A good people watching spot we were also taken aback by how large one particular mallard duck was. The chief of all mallard ducks!
The setting is extraordinarily beautiful (standard fair here) but bloody hell this thing can go! We zoomed up and down for 20minutes, coming within a few inches of the rock face. I remembered hearing a story when I lived here that a Japanese tourist had stuck his head out the side to get a better look and then smashed his brains to pieces. I kept all body parts firmly inside the craft. What a fantastic start to the morning though! AND something I actually have never done before!
An early start today (which is totally fine because... jet lag) and a day of getting wet! This morning we are off on a jet boat on the shotover river. Jet boats are a famous Nz invention - these things skim over the water (only need 10cms of water to move in!) and get up to 80km/h. Shotover jets invented this so we thought we ought to go with them. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visited in 2014 too so it must be good?!

14 February 2017

What better way to end the day (and it's Valentine's Day too!) than with a trip to the Cookie Time cafe. I ate my body weight in a cookie milk shake thing. Living the dream!!
All that excitement warranted a beer and a few tacos. We found this really cool boat bar where it offered BYO food. Ideal as there are a few pop up take away places in Queenstown. We grabbed a few tacos and enjoyed a beer whilst floating on the lake. It was a sunny day but it still got down to about 9 degrees this evening so we had to sit inside!
What better way to enjoy the weather than a luge down the hill. We had 5 happy goes hurtling down the hill trying to not take out the slow Asian ladies. Jon took it too far on one corner and came off and did something to his knee. Standard Bates behaviour.
To celebrate clean clothes we boarded the cable car up to the top of the mountain above Queenstown. To our amazement the sun has come out (NZ has had the shittest summer weather of all time recently). Truly stunning up here!
Perhaps it has got even better! The bag people (not sure who we were dealing with at this point... the keepers of lost luggage I suspect) phoned to say JBs bag had landed in Queenstown and it was making its way over to our hostel. Hurrah! We arrived back to triumphantly welcome it in and Jon was finally able to put on a fresh pair of boxers. Gross.
Quite possibly the most exciting thing to happen since well... I dunno ever... is the discovery of the cookie time cafe. So for those who don't know, the worlds best cookies (in the world) are Cookie Times. They're a New Zealand speciality and just bloody brilliant. It was probably the main motivation to come to NZ (just behind Rosie's wedding of course) so you can imagine my excitement at discovering this Mecca for the Cookie Time. Could this day get any better?!
Like a lot of old colonial towns there's a very pleasant garden to walk around. It is blowing a hoolie mind so it's a little chilly. The trees here are enormous! They're Canadian trees apparently and they grow 3x faster than they would in Canada due to the supersonic New Zealand soil (or something like that!).
A cloudy and blowy day we wandered around Queenstown wharf and admired the beautiful town.
Feeling pretty pleased to have mostly beat jetlag we headed into town to get our bearings and to book some exciting activities.
Just an incredible view from our hostel this morning. Snow still on the mountains!
Jane from "plane biz" kick started the day by sending us a text at 6.45 to say JBs bag would arrive this afternoon. Angry faces all round and lots of emails and tweets sent in frustration. So poor Jon will have to wear the same clothes he has worn since Saturday for at least the morning. I did suggest he wore his pj bottoms (which thankfully were in his carry on) and my poncho around town until it showed up. I thought he could blend in with the bohemian locals. The suggestion wasn't well received.

13 February 2017

My goodness what a view from our room! We're staying in a private room in a youth hostel, it's similar to someone's house and there's lots of young people milling about. A friendly atmosphere though! Still no sign of the luggage and no news from mordoor (aka the buggers at Qantas). We decided to go out to get some food and fight the jet lag as we both felt extremely tired. We managed to hold out until about 9.30pm before we both fell unconscious and slept like logs until the morning!
Having a lack of luggage and being greeted by a torrential down pour meant Jon had to resort to sporting my Joules Poncho on arrival. I mean I think he styled it out to be honest. We're expecting his bag to arrive anytime soon so we will see!! Our lodge was only a 10 minute walk away from town but did involve a very steep hill (classic kiwi terrain).
That said... we're now winding down the mountain via extremely tight hairpin bends that are absolutely not designed for coaches. Coach driver just scraped the outside of the coach on the inside of the bend. We've had to reverse up to make the the turn! Needless to say we have a lot traffic building up behind. Fun times.
As far as detours go... it's quite a spectacular one! I once would have felt this was a slightly hairy road but India changed that...
Going the long way round isn't all bad, we got to go past the "bra fence" in Cardrona. Not sure why. But I like it! (Can't take creds for the photo, we drove by too quickly so I had to google it!)
45 minutes away from Queenstown two pieces of bad news were delivered... 1. It's torrentially raining and 2. The pass from Cromwell to Queenstown is shut due to a traffic accident. What this means is we have to do a detour... adding an additional hour to the journey time. The coach driver as described this detour as an "interesting drive"...
I've seen a similar sign before... haha.
Since learning about the irrigation techniques Jon has become somewhat obsessed with trying to spot the "longest" irrigation system. This one is winning with it being "21" pieces long.
Evidently this stunning country is lost on certain travellers. Good thing they've got their smart phones for entrainment...
On a family holiday once we stopped here and I always found the name amusing. It's pronounced Twy-zel but it's funnier to call it Twiz-el.
This drive is just stunning.
This appears to be a significant spot for more people joining us to carry on the journey down. Carnage ensued as these tourists tried to bundle their way on to be told that their booking had been cancelled. A small fight broke out with lots of shouting, phone calls and pieces of paper being thrust in different directions.. oh dear. Nonetheless they were left behind.
I just can't get over the colour of that sky and the water when the sun gets out. It's incredible.
A morning in New Zealand and I've turned into a hobbit!!
Not a bad lunch stop aye?!
Lunch stop at Lake Tekapo and I am mainly excited by the "Lollie slice" and "Rocky Road" on offer here. Both classic kiwi sweets that were sold in my school cafeteria. I remember once exchanging left over breaded goods from my friend Vic's bakery for batches of Lollie slice off of the school cafe manager. Such entrepreneurial children. Ahh memories.
The scenery has really started to get very Lord of the "Rungs" and it's enough to make you shout "corrrrrr" as you come round the bend. Here's the first glimpse of one of many stunning South Island lakes Lake Tekapo.
After our little stop we turned off and in land towards the mountains. Big terrain change! We're getting some very typical New Zealand weather. Some very angry looking clouds mixed in with extraordinary vibrant blue sky. The landscape is mesmerising!
Our first "major" stop on the coach was in the charming town of Geraldine... suitably in the "wop wops" (kiwism for middle of nowhere). We were enthralled by its major claim to fame - it's home to the largest hand knitted "jersey" (jumper to us Brits) reportedly in the world. Wow. Now that is something. I do love a good kiwi claim to fame and what a treat to have one so so early on. Another treat was a cheese and mince meat pie with a bottle of V. It's technically "elevensies" but it seems very long ago we had breakfast so we thought we'd be allowed. I remember getting mince meat pies at school in Wellington. We used to eat the lid, then eat the middle with a spoon and finish off the remaining pastry. Yummy!
Out into the open road and down through the Canterbury plains. The terrain here is relatively boring. Our coach driver isn't boring in the slightest. An absolute character, George greeted us with a traditional Maori greeting and chatted animatedly for most of the journey about the places we passed. Who knew irrigation could be so fascinating!
From the airport we drove into Christchurch itself to pick up some more punters. I enjoyed recognising the old brand names along the way. I particularly enjoy how old school New Zealand is - amazing that a video store still exists! Something which I'm pretty sure is extinct in the UK. It's reassuring NZ still has its old school charm :-) PS YouTube "nitflux" for a piss take on this topic.
Here he is all on time! We were greeted by a smiling Maori driver - I even said Kia Ora just to be a total blender.
Bagless Bates waits for the coach to Queenstown.
Wooooo the traditional Kiwi Welcome!
"Are your shoes just for the town or do you wear them in the bush?" Says the customs officer inspecting the bottom of my shoes. I smirk as there isn't much in the way of "bush" land in Windsor but I get the sentiment. "I wear them in the bush". In fact these shoes have travelled all over the world last year from the deserts in Africa, to the jungles of Malaysia, to the soiled streets of India. By all means I was happy to see the shoes taken off behind the scenes to be sprayed with disinfectant. Behind us I spy a young gentleman having his banana detained. Foolish boy bringing that in. With an economy almost entirely reliant on agriculture that's so detached from the rest of the world, you can understand why they're nervous and politely extremely strict.
There was a reasonably tight turn around from Melbourne to Christchurch in which I relished in doing the famous "Dean family airport walk" across the terminal. Turns out the flight to Christchurch was slightly delayed anyway so no need for the comedy run. On the descent into Christchurch (god knows what day it is or who we are) we were greeted by an announcement "those who came through Heathrow and Dubai please report to the baggage assistance on arrival into Christchurch". Oh bugger. That's a bad sign. Turns out my bag made it! Hurrah!!! But Jbs... not so much. Error. We're getting a coach to Queenstown in two hours. So his bag will have to follow us. Apparently it's still in Melbourne. Whoops.

12 February 2017

Flights are boring. I watched approx 6 films and the box set of flight of the conchords. Literally nothing interesting happened and there was virtually no turbulence. Which is a big thumbs up. I did however leave my neck pillow on our first flight which was gutting. Seriously loved that pillow. Bummer.

11 February 2017

So. It's been 4 months back working. I failed miserably at keeping up the travel blog and tailed off in Italy. I will post the last few months of travelling eventually. I promise! In the meantime... we are off again. It seems we're rather spoilt going for another trip but this time it is only two weeks. And it's for a very special occasion. My amazing childhood friend Rosie's wedding. I'm bridesmaid! To make the most of the relatively extortionate flight and time it takes to get here, we're squeezing in a cheeky ten day trip around the South Island before making our way to Wellington for the big day. I lived in New Zealand as a child 1999-2003. It was the most wonderful place to grow up and the country holds a place in my heart. Jon and I visited in 2007 just before going to university as young 18 year olds. I can't believe it has almost been 10 years since I was last here. I am so excited to be back!!! Just a 27 hour flight to contend with first...