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By this Author: Gill's Travels

Planning Your Trip Around Your Stomach

Sunday 8th November 2015

semi-overcast 17 °C

We had more or less geared today around the fact that the hostel was serving a roast dinner this evening "better than your mother can cook". So before we went out we booked ourselves in with the expectation of great roast beef and Yorkshire pudding later in the day. Yesterday evening we had booked to go out on the one hundred year old steam ship, the TSS Earnslaw.


It is beautiful boat and watching the furnaces being stoked, and the pistons turning was fascinating made more so by the fact that passengers could go into the engine room and look down on the 'workings' below. We travelled up Lake Wakatipu and stopped at Walter Peak Station which is a working sheep farm.


This is where a large number of the passengers got off as they had clearly booked a farm tour as well. We and the remainder of the passengers stayed on the boat and carried on enjoying the scenery as we travelled back to Queenstown. It was quite funny watching seagulls hitching a ride on the boat, the lifeboats seeming to be their favoured place to sit.


The weather had unfortunately deteriorated and it rained quite a bit although it had cleared up quite a bit by the time we disembarked. We spent a bit of time watching them loading the ship up with another supply of coal and there was the opportunity for a bit of people watching. I was particularly amused by a woman I saw who was dressed from head to toe in the same shade of deep orange, and as if to emphasise the point she spent ages posing while her friend to her photograph.


Once passengers started to embark for the next cruise we went off and wandered round the town. We found a really nice cafe for lunch and then did a bit of shopping before going back to the hostel. We then just chilled out for a few hours before assembling in the hostel kitchen/ dining room with a large number of other residents. The food was really nice (although the roast potatoes weren't as good as our home cooked ones) and we really enjoyed the meal. We chatted to a few of the others but almost all of them were young enough to be my children so it did make me feel a bit old. Once we had all finished eating we had to muck in and help with the washing up, which considering the meal only cost about £3.50 a head seemed fair. We then did a few bits before going to bed quite early, aware that we were going to have an early start in the morning.

Posted by Gill's Travels 23:23 Archived in New Zealand Tagged lakes queenstown new_zealand Comments (0)

The Best of Queenstown Without the Adrenalin Rush

Saturday 7th of November

semi-overcast 16 °C

After a great deal of deliberation about what we were going to do in Queenstown, we eventually decided on a tour that seemed to suit. Part of the problem is that we really aren't adrenalin people. Some activities such as bungee jumping were dismissed without even so much as a thought, but others were more difficult. We really wanted to see some of the out of the way scenery but most of the guided trips went to places such as Skippers Canyon and Macetown, both of which involved being driven on high and very precarious tracks with very few passing places and lots of other tour and privately driven 4x4 vehicles. This isn't really our thing! Eventually we contacted a guy called Alan who runs a company called Glenorchy Journeys who seemed to fit the bill. We could go out and see the scenery at the northern end of the lake, with the emphasis on great views, we could also do this as a private tour so we knew the trip would be truly based on what we wanted to do.

After a light breakfast at the hostel we were ready for our 9am pick up. Alan was outside ready and waiting and introduced himself and we were soon on our way. The vehicle, a Toyota 4x4 was a little more comfortable and easier to get in and out of than Mark's Land Rover which was an added bonus. We made our way out of the town and up the north eastern shore of Lake Wakatipu, stopping off a couple of times so that we could see and take photographs of the stunning views.


We continued up to Glenorchy where Alan lives, which is about 30 miles from Queenstown at the northern end of the lake. He parked up and we went down to the jetty and took some photographs and had a look round.


From there we travelled up the appropriately named Glenorchy Paradise Road following the Dart river valley into the Mount Aspiring National Park. We continued to the Arcadia Homestead, a beautiful Edwardian house built in 1906 by Englishman Joseph Cyprian Fenn in the hope of attracting his fiancée out to New Zealand. Having built it he then sent for her only to find out that his father had married her in his absence (what a rat).


We continued a short distance so that Alan could show us the filming that is currently taking place in the area, reputed to be for a Nestle advert. This area has been used for a lot of major films including the Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Hobbit and Narnia. The isolation and beautiful scenery make it ideal and it brings useful revenue into the area.


Once we had a good nose we turned around and went back through a lovely protected beech forest, past Diamond Lake and back across Earnslaw Burn. We then turned up onto one of the large sheep and cattle stations in the area. We parked up near one of the disused scheelite mines and stood out on one of the bluffs overlooking the valley.


The views were stunning and we could see the whole valley and many of the surrounding peaks. We returned to the car and Alan poured us a cup of coffee and handed round Anzac biscuits and we stood enjoying the fresh air and peace and quiet, disturbed only by the occasional noisy cow. Once we got back in the car we went back towards Queenstown although there was still plenty of time to chat about life, the younger generation and much more. Once we were dropped off we went to a local cafe and had a lovely lunch before returning to the hostel. We then had a few hours to relax and sort out some practical things before it was time to go out again. We had booked to go up on the Queenstown cable car, the Skyline. We had bought a package which included the gondola trip and a buffet meal followed by the opportunity to do some stargazing. The ride, although not far, was very steep. Once we got to the top we checked in at the restaurant before going to the observation deck to admire the view and take some photographs.


We then went back to the restaurant/ bar and ordered some drinks and almost as soon as these were served to us it was time to be shown to our table. The meal was a buffet affair and there was loads to choose from, and as much as one wanted. We both went for prawn cocktails, roast meat and veg and a dessert (despite the fact that we knew we would be having a Sunday roast tomorrow at the hostel). Once we had eaten all we could manage, washed down with a coffee it was just about time for our stargazing. We went to the assembly point but by this time there was quite a lot of cloud cover and so we were advised that it had been cancelled. This was quite disappointing but we always knew it was on the cards.


We took the opportunity to go back to the observation deck and see the Queenstown nights-cape before getting the gondola back down and making the short walk back to the hostel. Saturday night in Queenstown was at full volume, and what with the chatter, laughter and a bit of shouting, along with the remnants of some bonfire night fireworks it was a bit of time before we got to sleep.

Posted by Gill's Travels 23:13 Archived in New Zealand Tagged landscapes lakes queenstown new_zealand Comments (0)

Backpacking for the Over 60's

Friday 6th November 2015

semi-overcast 16 °C

We had such a great day yesterday that there was no way that we could really live up to that today. Our hosts in Wanaka has been incredibly helpful and hospitable, but as our room was needed by other guests we really needed to be out by 10am. Fortunately they were happy to store our bags and so we decided to have breakfast in town (we felt we could justify this as we hadn't had a meal yesterday evening). So once we had packed up we got our bags stashed away and once we had paid our bill we were on our way. Once we had finished eating we went for a walk round part of the lake. It only took a few minutes to get out of the town and then we were walking on the path just above the beach and the scenery was made all the more pretty for the trees, mainly willows interspersed with clumps of lupins.


There was one small stream flowing into the lake with a narrow bridge across it. A little further round there was a really diminutive willow tree growing in the shallow waters of the lake. We had been told by Mark that is known as the Wanaka tree and that it is the second most photographed tree in New Zealand (with the Kauri tree we saw in the north coming in at number one). Although we understood it was at its best at sunrise or sunset it was still very photogenic.


We carried on a little further making the most of the time we had available before turning round and making our way back to the apartments to get our bags. We then made the short walk back to the bus stop and found a convenient picnic table to sit at while we waited.

It was going to be quite a short bus ride as it is only just over 100 kilometres between Wanaka and Queenstown. The bus was pretty crowded when we got on as it had come from Franz Josef taking the same route we had travelled a few days before. Fortunately we managed to find two seats together and once everyone's bags were onboard we got underway. Initially we travelled through farmland; pasture, vineyards then giving way to orchards.


Although it was a short journey we still had a scheduled stop at a fruit farm which had one of the best selection of both fresh and dried fruit I have ever seen. We bought some apples, oranges and dried mangos for our stay in Queenstown before getting back on the coach for the final leg of our journey. We then travelled through the Clutha Gorge. The river was the most amazing turquoise blue and the gorge very dramatic with steep rocky sides.


Just a few miles out of Queenstown we reached the Kawarau Gorge which we crossed using a fairly new bridge. The old one has been put to new use as the birthplace of A J Hacketts original bungy jump. There was no stopping however and we were soon pulling into the outskirts of Queenstown. There was a drop off for those in the upper part of the town and then the bus pulled into the town centre just a short distance from where we were staying. We quickly checked in and were shown to our room, small but absolutely fine for a few days. We spent a while settling in before going out to have a look at the town. We went up to the Skyline gondola to book tickets for a ride, meal and stargazing experience for tomorrow. We then went for a drink followed by an over large but rather disappointing meal. Queenstown is a complete contrast to Wanaka. Both are on a lake and are surrounded by mountains but there the similarities end. Wanaka is quiet, perhaps even sleepy whereas Queenstown is noisy and a bit brash. Both are certainly worth visiting and both certainly have their charm.

Posted by Gill's Travels 20:56 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

This is Paradise

Thursday 5th November 2015

sunny 18 °C

We have had such a busy day today, but it has also been amazing. It has also been one of those days when the scenery really does do the talking. This morning we were out with Mark from Ridgeline Adventures who took us up onto the West Wanaka Station in his Land-rover. We were really lucky as there were just the two of us and Mark's uncle who was in the front seat so put to good use opening the gates. The trip started with us driving in an anti-clockwise direction along the shores of the lake. The town is very small and so we were very quickly out into the countryside. We skirted round the edge of Roy's Peak and then Glendhu Bay. Once we crossed the Matukituki River we were entering West Wanaka Station land, passing by a couple of fields with sheep and newly born lambs and then some farm buildings. Apparently there are 4,500 Red Deer, 12,000 sheep and 1,000 cows grazing the property, although the deer proved harder to spot. We then turned off the main gravel road and started to climb up the hillside.


The road twisted and turned and Mark expertly drove up the steep inclines. Once we had got up a little higher Mark parked up and we had the opportunity to look back towards the valley and take some photographs. The tall trees of the valley floor gave way to smaller and more stunted Manuka and other native small trees and shrubs. The views were stunning and when we reached the highest point accessible by road we had 360 degree views both back towards the river and to the lake. Mark again parked and we had coffee at what he called the Alpine Cafe.


Whilst we were there he pointed out a number of local landmarks including Mou Waho Island which has a lake on it. We then left Mark behind and went for a a couple of short walks ahead of the Land Rover enjoying the peace and solitude as we went. From being high up on hillside we then made our way down to the lake side and along the shore line. Mark told us about the history of the station and a man called Henry Thomson who came out to New Zealand from the Orkneys in the middle of the 19th century. He cleared the native scrub and then built a small farm here by the beautiful Colquhouns Bay, but in the end it was the rabbits introduced by the early settlers that defeated him.


We were shown some of the remains of the farm buildings and some artefacts including part of a shoe which could well have belonged to Thomson himself. Mark also had some photographs of the farm taken in 1865 when Thomson was still there. Mark's enthusiasm for both the landscape and history of the area was infectious and we really enjoyed the trip. From the old homestead we continued round the shore of the lake where we came across a couple of walkers. He summed up the landscape and the weather by saying "this is paradise". Sadly before long the trip had finished and we were arriving back in the town and our accommodation.

Our appetites had been whetted in terms of visiting Mou Waho Island and so we spoke to the owner of our accommodation and she kindly rung the tour guide Chris that had been recommended to us by Mark. Unfortunately he was busy with other bookings so she tried another guy called Davy and fortunately he said he was able to take us out that afternoon. We had time for a spot of lunch before going down to the marina to meet up with him. We had already been warned that he talked a lot and this certainly proved to be the case. He probably spent half an hour just chatting and showing us photographs before we even left the mooring! The journey across the lake was really picturesque and Davy pointed out lots of sights including some of the key points from our trip this morning.


When we moored up we went to have a look at some of the wildlife near the shoreline including a number of birds one of which was the previously endangered flightless weka and also saw some wooden boxes laid to provide homes and protection to the weta, a large cricket type insect. Once we had talked about these and had a chat to some local fishermen we began the ascent of the island.

The path was pretty steep but fortunately there were a few strategically placed benches so a couple of times we were able to stop and rest and also admire the amazing views. After half an hour or more we reached a rock overlooking the stunning Arethusa Lake.


What makes this so unusual is that this also has a small island meaning that this is an island on a lake on an island in a lake on the island of New Zealand. Davy took great pleasure in telling us this several times while we were there. We also saw several more very friendly weka including some juveniles and several other species of bird such as the bellbird.


Our vantage point already seemed a little precarious but Davy took even us even higher point from where we had even better views of the lake. We could see for miles and it gave us a great view of Arethusa sitting above Wanaka Lake, with the mountains beyond. He also took us for another short walk to a viewpoint round the other side of the island where there was a rock feature like a chair again affording great views of the surrounding area.


We had already been on the island for a couple of hours and so we then made our steep descent back to Davy's boat. Once on board we were given home made lemonade (which really took me back to my childhood) and muffins. We then made the equally scenic journey back across the lake with some lovely reflections in the water, as well as the sight of lots of small sailing boats near the mooring.


We had been out for probably double the time Davy had said the trip would last, mainly as a result of his boundless ability to chat.

Posted by Gill's Travels 20:27 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

En-route to a Sunny Wanaka

Wednesday 4th November 2015

sunny 16 °C

We are leaving Franz Josef today and ironically the weather has chosen to clear so we woke to a bright and sunny morning. Although it is a shame that we had not had better weather whilst we were here it was promising something a little better for when we arrive in Wanaka which is our next destination. In the meantime we were able to appreciate the mountain peaks of Franz Josef whilst walking to the bus stop in the centre of the town.


Ours was the first pick up point of the day and so we could pretty much sit were we wanted and thinking that this would afford us the best views we had opted for seats on the left hand side. There was a bit of a debate as the bus company have introduced a no food policy after a number of spillages had stunk the coaches out. Some of the non English speaking travellers seemed very confused and quite determined to take their food on board rather than have it stowed away in the luggage compartment. Eventually the driver seemed to get his point of view across and everyone got back on board the bus.

When we first left the town we crossed some farmland in the northern end of the glacial valley and then a couple of small streams on our way to the town of Fox Glacier where we had to pick up a few more people.


As is the case with Franz Josef, it appeared that the glacier itself was quite a long way from the town. I didn't think the town looked as nice as Franz Josef but maybe having stayed there I am a little bit biased. We could still see the mountains on our left as we passed over a number of pale milky blue melt water streams.



As we travelled further, the road ran nearer to the higher peaks and the streams became more like rivers. Not long after we crossed the Karangarua River we arrived at the coast near Bruce Bay. Like so many of the beaches in New Zealand this was littered with drift wood washed down the rivers.

Shortly after this we turned inland we pulled up at the South Westland Salmon Farm and Cafe just before the wide braided Paringa River for a comfort break. We crossed another couple of rivers, all flowing northwards into the Tasman Sea, before arriving back at the coast again at a place called Knights Point.


We stopped again so that we could have a view of the coastline and the nearby seal colony which we could just see basking on the sand in the distance. The next time we turned inland we were alongside the wide Haast River which is near the location of another scenic lookout known as the Thunder Falls in the Mount Aspiring National Park.


We stopped here long enough to go and look at the falls and for our driver, and the one going towards Franz Josef, to swap over so that they could then drive back to their start points. Once our driver and all us passengers were back on board we continued by the Haast River until which we reached what is known as the Haast Gates. This has a series of cascades and it also marks the start of the Haast Pass.


At about 1pm we stopped at a cafe in place called Makarora where we were able to buy lunch. From there it took us about half an hour to get to the northern end of Lake Wanaka. Due to the topography we continued for a few miles along the eastern shore of the lake before the road turned and went up and over a pass called The Neck and back down onto the western shore of the neighbouring Lake Hawea. Lit


For the very last leg of the journey the road travels inland southwest across farming land near the Hawea River until we finally arrived in the town of Wanaka at about 2:30pm.

We got our bags off the bus down by the lake shore and asked the driver if he knew where our hotel was located. Rather frustratingly he sent us slightly further round the lake than we wanted to go so by the time we realised our error and walked back, dragging our bags behind us, we were feeling a little weary. We were compensated when we checked in and were shown to our room, which was upstairs and on the corner with great views of both the lake and the mountains. Once we were settled in we thought we ought to confirm our cruise on Doubtful Sound as instructed on our voucher. We were very upset and concerned when they told Nigel that we weren't booked in. When they made further investigations they found that we had been booked in twelve months previously. After a couple of conversations back and forth they said that they could accommodate us in a quad room and after further debate they were able to put us in a quad/ family room that meant that we wouldn't be sharing with anyone else and that would have our own bathroom.

To be fair it wasn't their fault and we knew fairly early on that the error was made by our booking agent (a large and reputable company with a branch in Norwich). I was doubly annoyed because they had so little to arrange as I had booked almost all of our hotels. We contacted them through their emergency contact number and told them what we had been able to secure and asked them to ensure that the money they had taken from us went to pay for our newly booked cabin, and also we asked for some explanation/ apology for what had happened. This cruise is one of the highlights of our while trip so this issue has been pretty upsetting. We didn't feel much like eating, but we went out to a local restaurant where I order some lovely lamb chops and Nigel had some sausages. We both felt pretty full by the time we went back to our apartment we were still feeling a bit down in the dumps.

Posted by Gill's Travels 02:32 Archived in New Zealand Tagged rivers new_zealand wanaka franz_josef Comments (0)

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