A Travellerspoint blog

Queenstown - Day Two

overcast 10 °C

Free camping went well last night with two exceptions: the car driving by at 4am that decided to lay its horn on and the gas finally running out. Never the less today is our explore Queenstown day so off we went. After having massive difficulties finding somewhere to park (all of Queenstown is free parking), we eventually swooped in and nabbed a spot. Tom's history with Budget panel vans proved useful as he backed the van-a-ram neatly into the spot. Our first stop was to locate internet so off we wandered in the pouring rain until we came to a chocolate shop where we indulged in delicious hot chocolates (lavender for Chrissy, regular for Tom) The cafe proved quite entertaining as we watched a group of diva americans bicker back & forth about driving. Looking at our watch, we realized it was time to head over to the TSS Earnslaw for our adventure to Walter's Peak.

Tom was thrilled with the steamship while Chrissy caught up on postcards. Once we docked at Walter's Peak the fun began! The group of us was led to see the various animals. Walter's Peak is a working sheep & cattle farm with about 4000 acres and umpteen dozens of animals roaming around aimlessly. The stag was having a riveting game of soccer with himself while the three lady deer just lazily watched. Over in the other pen, the two sheep were having a lovely time indulging in some feed while the alpacas watched.

Afterwards we moved indoors for afternoon tea and it was delicious! Tea and some various little snackies. Tom wolfed down the cheese scones while Chrissy enjoyed mini pancakes with jam & whipped cream. Tom ended up chatting to a lady from Nelson NZ about horses, eventing, and the likes for quite some time. After tea, we wandered around the grounds for a bit and soaked up the scenery. Chrissy played peekaboo in a tree and Tom checked out the mad duck flock. After we had enough of the sites, we hung around the sheep for a bit. Petted them, fed them, bowled over by them; the usual sheep-y activities. Then we watched a sheep herding demonstration with the dog which was fascinating and ended the day with a demonstration on how to shear a sheep. All in all a lovely day of sheep!!

Jumping back on the TSS Earnslaw in the pouring rain, we headed back to Queenstown where we decided that it would be better just to pick up a(nother) pizza from Hell's Pizza and get on the road to Wanaka as it was getting pretty late. The road to Wanaka can only be described as twisty, turning, and will make even the most iron stomach want to throw up. Up and up we wove our van-a-ram for an hour and just when we thought we couldn't take anymore, we popped out at Wanaka!!! The next step was to find lodging, as there are no DOC anywhere remotely close to Wanaka we ended up in a Holiday Park. Our chosen stay for the next two nights? A luxurious holiday park with a hot tub, sauna, and a lovely shower. Quite nice considering the choices here!! We hopped into the hot tub and met up with a group from Ireland who we swapped stories and advice with. Trying to finish Whale Rider tonight but don't know if we will get that far....Will post later

Posted by tc2009 19:10 Archived in New Zealand Tagged animal Comments (0)

Queenstown

semi-overcast 8 °C

This morning was a brutal early morning start. Neither of us are morning people so having to be up at 5.30am (when it is pitch black and FREEZING cold) was not the easiest of tasks. To add to this, the gas which is used to heat our little van-a-ram is running out so the heat comes on and off sporadically. We got into Queenstown in about 15 minutes which was a fun drive considering all the corners combined with the lack of street lamps. Tom just about hit a possum as well but better luck next time!

We waited and waited and waited some more for the bus to Milford Sound to show up. 20 minutes after it was scheduled arrival drive, the bus pulled up and we piled in. Not sure of all the other buses here but the tourist buses have seat belts you must wear which we found quite neat! The drive to Milford Sound was about three and a half hours but once you added in a pickup in Te Anu and some various stopping points along the way it ended up being about four and a bit hours. The drive was BEAUTIFUL (even though it was raining) and went thru a wide range of landscapes including farm land, rainforest, and mountain ranges. There was also a 4km tunnel (one and a half lane) thru a mountain that puts Rogers Pass to shame! It was slightly terrifying to be in a bus and come head to head with a motorhome hell bent on getting through that tunnel first. The road leading down to Milford Sound was quite steep and windy and involved a lot of hairpin corners.

Once in Milford Sound the views were amazing from the wharf and we couldn't wait to get on the boat. Our vessel was the smallest of all the cruise boats which meant some pretty wicked photo opportunities. Such as when the skipper piloted the boat into a waterfall and drenched Tom or when we went to the point where the sound met the Tasman Sea. There were tons of waterfalls and looking up the fjords was stunning. We also lucked out and saw some napping seals and Tom thinks he saw a baby seal clamber up the rock afterwards but this remains to be proven.

After the two hour cruise we hopped back on-board where we were given a small snack of chips & juice and off we went! Our last pit stop was to the Chasm which was a waterfall amongst nifty carved out rocks and the mandatory Kea sighting. Unfortunately we deduced that the Kea was not a big fan of red as a women decked to the nines and wearing all red (her signature colour we suppose) approached him and he ran away underneath the bus. But he came close to everyone else not wearing red including Tom.

On the way back to Te Anu, we watched a video called 'Shadowland' which was a scenic movie with all the various scenery shots of Milford Sound. After we dropped everyone off in Te Anu the real fun began as the driver plugged in the 'Worlds Fastest Indian' a true story about a man from Invercargill who wanted to see how fast his 1929 indian motorcycle would go. It was a great story and although Chrissy became slightly carsick on the way back all and all it was a good day.

When we finally got back into Queenstown at 7.15pm we decided it was probably easier just to pick up a pizza from Hell's Pizza (better than Panagos!) and head off for the night. mmmmmm the pizza was delish and we could have ordered one of everything!!! Once back at the van-a-ram we discovered that the good citizens of Queenstown had left us a friendly reminder that we were not to free camp in their parking lot and to scram. Taking this opportunity we decided to try our hand at free camping outside the limits indicated by the good citizens. We ended up 14km outside of town on a wide shoulder beside the road. Needless to say after the long day we crashed pretty quickly after making sure the doors were locked!!!!!

Posted by tc2009 16:02 Archived in New Zealand Tagged boating Comments (0)

Dunedin - Day Two

rain 8 °C

Today we woke up to the pouring rain. Not a bad thing though because the smell after the rain is phenomenal!! The resident ducks were entertaining as well.....We emptied the waste water tank and refilled the water tank and we were gone in a flash. Our first stop was the Cadbury Chocolate Factory for a tour however we had to tackle the obstacle of finding parking. This proved to be slightly more problematic than originally thought...The meter said $1.50/h however once all was said and done we ended up paying $4.50 for two hours because the machine liked to eat our money.

The allure of chocolate was too strong however and eaten money aside, we were excited for the factory tour!!! We made it just in time to join a tour group which was lead by an Oomaloompa. Not even kidding, our tour guide was dressed in purple overalls, purple shoes, purple hat, and had an attractive fanny pack. It was great!!! The factory tour was great too even after the excitement of the "missing family" prompted an almost total lock down of the factory as they searched for this family. We got to see the assembly line and our goody bags were filled up with full sized treats! Chrissy was thrilled and eager to eat it all (with the exception of the Perky Nana -- a banana flavoured chocolate bar, luckily Tom likes them...) The tour wrapped up with a giant chocolate waterfall cascading down and a major stockpile in the gift shop.

Unfortunately, by the time the tour wrapped up it was too late to get over to the Speight's Brewery Tour but we wandered over to the Octagon where we (aka Chrissy) did a bit of shopping and picked up some gifts. She lucked out as one of the shops she was looking forward to going to was having a giant sale and she walked away with lots of gifts for less money! We also have had our first experience of currency conversion. Here, the credit card machines give you the option of paying in NZ or CND dollars and so far we have found it cheaper to convert it through the shops as the exchange rate is better and the admin fee is less (only about 1.75-2% compared to MC/Visa 2.5%)

We are headed off to Queenstown today and the road is long, windy, and slightly boring at times. But we passed Westbank Orchards in an area that looks exactly like Osysoos with all the orchards and vineyards. We also go through this really neat rocky area where the rock formations can't even begin to be verbally described. When we get a chance (and longer internet connection) we will upload the pictures of the area.

When we made it to Queenstown, it was, no correction, it is EXACTLY like Banff. The town set up and architecture is idendtical. So are the prices for that matter...We found the iSite and decided on the advice of the visitor counsellor that we shall book a tour to Milford Sound for tomorrow as the weather is set to be the best. In the interest of budgetary senses we have decided to forgo bunging jumping in favour of a jet boat tour and a steamboat trip to see sheep shearing & herding.

Our home for the night is another DOC campground where we may or may not have bent the step under our campervan due to the massive quantities of potholes. But we settled into a little tucked away spot and settled in for the night. Will post more soon....

Posted by tc2009 16:18 Archived in New Zealand Tagged events Comments (1)

Dunedin

sunny 13 °C

We woke up and our first reaction was “Oh well there goes the weather!”. It was ugly outside and there was no sign of the sun anywhere. But before long, the super heavy fog lifted to reveal another beautiful day. Today was also the first day of testing out the van’s shower. Chrissy learned super fast that it doesn’t take much to use up all the water (plus hot water) and Tom learned not to let Chrissy go first. Don’t panic just yet, we both managed to get mostly showered and cleaned before we ran out of water!!

Today was a driving day and Chrissy’s first day of driving! WAHOO!! Lucky for her, she got to drive through that heavy fog. After what seemed like forever, we eventually arrived at the Moripaki (??) Boulders. These boulders are spherical shaped and plunked down on a beach, which makes for a great story of dinosaur marbles. We didn’t time our visit very well though as the tide JUST came in so we made do by scuttling alongside the edge of the cliff to get just close enough to the boulders for some pictures. This resulted in several yelps from Chrissy as the ocean came a bit close for comfort. Afterwards, we walked back to the van via the sheep field, the sheep that turned out to be very skittish, hid amongst the grass to avoid detection. As we have now seen multiple different types of animals, a brief list will be compiled:
-Sheep (which have 1 of 4 names attached: Fred, Baba, Sanchez, Salsa)
-Goats
-Donkeys
-Cows
-Dead possums (bonus points are given apparently!)

Getting back on the road, we headed towards Dunedin. This was a long and boring ride, which resulted in seeing lots of double decker sheep buses. And the NZ equivalent of greyhound also operates as a double decker! The road into Dunedin was steep and windy which made for an interesting ride. Eventually we made it into Dunedin!!! First stop: FOOD!!!

We hit up our favourite place (Pak N’ Save) where we proceeded to pick up some depleted items and another reusable grocery bag for Chrissy. We also popped into the Warehouse, which is the NZ equivalent of Wal-Mart. After we spent some monies, we headed off towards the campground. The Dunedin Holiday Park is nice but very crowded and not our cup of tea. We are only here so we can repower, do some laundry, and get out ASAP!!! Chrissy is also very annoyed that it costs $3 to do a load of laundry and $3 for 30mins in the dryer which doesn’t even begin to dry things out. Hence the van now resembles a Laundromat with clothing strung about everywhere.

Tom has also befriended the resident kitten and was busy playing with it all evening. We deliberated stealing the cat but thought better however the highlight was on his return from collecting the pathetically dried clothing, he was ambushed by said cat.

Tomorrow we are heading off to Queenstown after stopping in at the Cadbury Factory for chocolate and the Speights Brewery for beer. Delicious combination!! Talk to you all in a few days!!s

Posted by tc2009 02:24 Archived in New Zealand Tagged boating Comments (1)

Mt.Cook

sunny 10 °C

When we woke up, a beautiful day awaited us. Gone were the clouds of yesterday and instead they were replaced with crystal clear blue skies and birds. After some breakfast and making sure everything was packed up, we headed off for a quick walk before heading off for the day. The views from our walk were well worth it! There is tons of wild life around and the fall colours are beautiful!

Our first stop was Lake Tekapo. Think the colour of Lake Louise but with less grandeous mountains. The Church of the Good Sheppard is a popular stopping off point for visitors (us included!) and the views are amazing. Apparently this is like the Vegas of NZ weddings because everyone wants the backdrop for their ceremony. There is also a monument to the herding dogs (QUINCY!!! This is for you!!) for helped with all sheep around Mackenzie Country. Pointless factoid: 70% of all merino wool in NZ comes from Mackenzie Country. The mad influx of tourist buses got to be a bit much so we jetted out and on to our next stop – Mt. Cook.

Our shuttle driver yesterday mentioned to take the side road to Mt. Cook in order to get some beautiful reflection shots of the mountain. When we approached the turnoff, we didn’t hesitate and went for it. The mountains (including Mt.Cook) were reflected into the still waters of the canal. The canal, which we later learned, is home to a Salmon Farm (random) and leads to a giant electric power plant. Chrissy wants to know how many salmon it takes to power a light bulb…

Meeting up with our fellow tour bus friends, we stopped for lunch at the visitor centre overlooking a lake and Mt. Cook. This is what we came to NZ for. Eating lunch outside of our van and looking over some amazing scenery. Heaven. While wandering around the visitor centre, we also learned that a lot of the Lord of the Rings was filmed around the area including the giant Middle Earth battle, which took place just outside of Twizel. Unfortunately, Legolas was nowhere to be seen we had to contend with tour buses.

The drive up to Mt.Cook is very flat and very curvy. They also have a far amount of one-way bridges, which were a little bit terrifying to cross at first. As well, their concept of a speed bump consists of narrowing the road to one lane, throwing in some concrete medians, and making it a first come-first-served speed bump. Annoying but effective. When we eventually got to Mt. Cook, Tom decided we should head off on a hike to the vantage point overlooking Mt. Cook. An hour and a half later, we decided that we felt like early explorers setting off on an exploration mission. The trail led us up steep hills, down loose gravol, across raging rapids (on a suspension bridge no less), and beside a cliff. But when we got there we forgot all about the tedious hike and soaked up the beauty. It is easy to brush off Mt. Cook as just another mountain because let’s be honest, we are fortunate to live close enough to the Rockies that nothing can top them. But Mt. Cook has a silent beauty that puts all the passes and peaks of the Rockies to shame. Its absolutely stunning and we highly recommend that anyone who goes to NZ go for that “little” hike and check it out for yourselves.

Bruised (Chrissy turned her ankle on the gravol) and tired, we made our way back to the van and headed off to find somewhere to camp. We stopped in Twizel (apparently pronounced Twa-zel) for some gas and continued on to a free DOC site beside a river. With the gurgling of the river for ambiance, we soon fell asleep while watching (ironically enough) Australia.

Posted by tc2009 02:22 Archived in New Zealand Tagged foot Comments (1)

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