Day 5 – Queenstown

Queenstown turned out to be a great town.  I’m not the adventurous type but fell in love with the feel of the town.  There are lots of cafes and bars which give it a lively atmosphere.  Our hotel (Mercure Queenstown) was on the hill on the other side of town and opposite a mountain.  We all had views of it and watching the sunset was magical. The restaurant also fronted the lake. I have to mention that they have twilight so it didnt get dark until after 10pm which I loved.

We had two nights and one full day in Christchurch which we could fill as we pleased. I wanted to do a garden tour but no one else did so it didn’t go ahead. Never mind. I just got the bus in to town and walked around. Decided to do the cruise on the TSS Earnslaw, a 100 year old coal-powered steamboat. It was a 90 min cruise to a farm on the mountain but I can’t remember it’s name right now. It was great to see Queenstown from a different viewpoint. It’s a very picturesque town.

After the cruise I walked around the Botanic Gardens then headed back to the bus stop to go back to the hotel. Had a restful afternoon then went to dinner at Bob’s Peak. More about that soon but it was spectacular.

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Day 4 to Queenstown

We had a delayed start due to the weather. Some of the passengers wanted to do the flights over the Fox Glacier but the weather wasn’t good. They were going to be cancelled but the weather picked up so they got to go and even landed on the glacier which was very exciting for them.

Our last stop before arriving in Q’town was Arrowtown. This was a gold village during the gold rush in the 1800’s. It’s much different now. I was expecting it to be like Sovereign Hill so was a little disappointed. However it would be a lovely place for a weekend getaway. It reminded me of the little villages in the Dandenongs.

On the way to Q’town we had quite a lot of stops. First one was Haast where some passengers did a jet boat tour then we stopped at Lake Mararoa for lunch at a roadhouse. Then we started to wind back up mountains to Thunder Falls, a waterfall which would be really spectacular after the winter rains and snow. Next stop was at Mrs Jones’ Farm to buy some fresh fruit. It was so nice to buy some fresh fruit. The cherries were very juicy and I ate a lot over the next day. I also stocked up on strawberries and bananas to take back to the hotel.

It was a very long day but broken up with all the stops. The countryside is so beautiful. The mountains rise very steeply towards the sky. It’s amazing. Surprisingly to many of us, the land is very brown in a lot of areas. I didn’t expect this is at all. However that’s still great because you get to see how rocky the mountains are.

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Day 3 – first day of tour

This morning I was woken just before the wake up call came through at 6am.  Argh. I hate early starts but will put up with them for now lol.  I had (surprisingly) slept through the whole night that I thought was earthquake free.  However we were told by the tour director, Clark, that there had been a 4.8 quake at around 6am and a tsunami alert had been issued.  It just never ends.  I was very glad I hadn’t felt it though.

Breakfast was from 6.45 – 7.30 and we were then taken to the train station for the Transcoastal train to Greymouth on the west coast.  You can choose to go to Arthur’s Pass or the whole journey to Greymouth.  I chose the later.  I had really been looking forward to this and I wasn’t let down.  The scenery is absolutely gobsmackingly gorgeous, pardon the pun.  We journeyed over beautiful gorges and rivers.  The mountains just seem to rise vertically up really, really high.  One of the carriages is opened up as a viewing platform.  It was a cold morning but I braved the chilly air to go and stand out there to take my photos.  I would have really regretted it if I hadn’t gone out there.  I’m unable to download any photos at the moment but will do so as soon as I can.  At Arthur’s Pass, the majority of the people on the tour got off and continued on by coach.  I and 11 others kept going on the train.  We travelled for 15 mins in a tunnel and when we emerged it was like being in a completely different area.  It was dark and cloudy with very low mists over the mountains.  It also rained for part of the time.  It was still really nice but didn’t match the stunning beauty of the first part of the journey.

When we arrived in Greymouth, the coach was there to collect us and we head to Hokitika.  I love jade jewelry and wanted to buy a tiki and anything else that took my fancy.  I ended up buying two necklaces and a pair of earrings for a great price in Aussie dollars.

After that we spent two long hours traveling through the countryside to Fox Glacier.  The weather had really closed in which meant the passengers who wanted to weren’t allowed to go on the helicopter flights over Fox Glacier.  It’s too dangerous.  Hopefully they will be able to go tomorrow morning.

Fox Glacier was disappointing because of the weather.  We were only given 20 mins to walk as we must have been running late to check in to the hotel.  I’m not likely to come back here because it is so far away from everything but I would love to see it in nicer weather.

After dinner tonight Carol, the kids and I sat down and watched the end of the 2nd cricket test.  It was so nice to see some cricket.  In Christchurch I had Sky Sports but no sound.  Brad said the same thing happened in their room so we felt like the hotel was teasing us by letting us watch sports but not listen lol.

The weather today was a chilly 17 degrees celsius.  And this is summer.  It is forecast to go up to around 22 in the next few days.  Woohoo.  Have I told you how much I love the summer.  I know some of you know that.

Tomorrow we are off to Queenstown for 2 nights.  I think we get to do the Haka show, dinner and gondola ride which I can’t wait for.

Bye for now 🙂

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Day 2 continued

I felt I was starting to lose my bearings so decided to back track and go back to my hotel.

Later that day I walked in the other direction to Merivale Shopping Centre.  Most shops and cafes were closed for the public holiday.  Even in the main part of the city, there was very little happening.  It seemed people were either doing things with family or resting after not getting much sleep last night from the quakes.

So in total I walked for around 2 hrs on Monday 2nd Jan and spent the rest of the day resting and watching tv in my room.  My room was actually a one bedroom apartment with a huge bathroom and a BATH. Oh how I loved that bath.  It was big and deep and so relaxing. I really miss not having a decent size bath at home.

 

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Days 1 & 2

Well I finally made it to NZ, despite nerves and all the other stuff that happens just before you go away.

My lack of phone access was quickly solved at Christchurch Airport when I spotted a Vodafone kiosk in the arrivals terminal.  I bought a prepaid kit and phone that is so basic.  It makes me laugh when I think this was all we used to have years ago.  So I have no internet access unless the hotels offer it.  Which obviously the hotel I’m staying at tonight does.

Christchurch was very stable for the first 6 or so hours after my arrival.  Then the earthquakes/tremors began.  And kept going. And going.  During my first night here I felt 5 tremors and 1 proper quake.  The quake has been reported on the news all over the world (I know this because the hotel has Sky news in the rooms).  Within half an hour of it waking me up I was hearing about it on British Sky news.  It happened at 5.45am 2nd January and Mum has since told me there were approx 27 tremors between then at midday that day.  It’s fair to say by then I was already sick of it.  The people of Christchurch are amazing, stoic people.  They don’t even talk about it.  But they are always reassuring us tourists that the quakes are happening all the time and they just get on with life.  I know they are fed up though.

I ate dinner by myself in the restaurant of the Heartland Cotswold Hotel .  It was a delicious Chef’s Chicken Dinner.  Bacon wrapped chicken with a cucumber salad and pesto.  Unfortunately I forgot to take my camera to take a photo.

The next morning I went to breakfast in the hotel.  At the airport, soon after arriving, I met Carol and her two kids Rebecca (17) and Brad (15).  We got chatting and realized we were staying at the same hotel and doing the same tour.  The next morning at breakfast they asked if I would like to join them so I didn’t have to sit by myself.  That was so kind of them.  Ever since we have eaten breakfasts and dinners together.  I think Brad is still having trouble believing I take photos of all my dinners lol.

I decided to take it easy that day and rest.  I did go for two walks though.  The first one was headed towards the red zone.  You really can’t avoid it unfortunately.  From Hagley Park I could see some of the cyclone fencing.  It was amazing to see so many buildings evacuated and now facing demolition when they are allowed.  Apparently there are still around 650 buildings to be demolished, including houses.  In one building I saw furniture sticking out of an open window exactly as it fell during the earthquake in February 2011.  Another apartment building looks fine from a distance.  However the front of the building on one side is no longer there.

 

 

 

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Only three weeks to go

Everything is starting to come together.  I’ve bought a backpack to carry around (which is actually a Christmas present from Gayle and Bryan and family), I’ve bought (only) two notebooks to make my own travel diaries and I’ve bought (only) three 4gb SD cards for the photos I will take.

Mum has to purchase extra travel insurance because one of the many travel agents we’ve had to deal with only covered her and Dad for the flights they booked even though we told her we were coming back to book all the other accomodation.  We ended up booking all of that ourselves but the travel insurance should have covered all that.  Mum was wondering why it was so cheap.

Yet another reason I’m glad I insisted we pick up our travel documents well in advance of going away.

Can anyone think of anything I may not have considered? 

When I get a chance (haha) I’m going to sit down and work out the extra tours I’ll do on the trip.

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Travel docs are in da house……but there are problems

I was told by the travel agent that the documents wouldn’t be available until two weeks before my holiday.  I wasn’t happy with that.  The main reason being that I would only get them around a week before Christmas so there wouldn’t be much time to fix things.  Secondly, December this a busy month and I don’t have much time to get to the travel agents.  The travel agent explained the reason why they don’t normally issue them earlier than two weeks which I understand but I asked if they could ask AAT Kings anyway.  So I was very happy when I received a text (whatever happened to a phone call?) to say everything could be picked up.  I told them I’d be there today.

Mum and I picked them up but weren’t given much of a chance to check everything.  I was able to ask a few questions which was good.  When Mum got home and checked their detail she noticed the travel insurance forms weren’t in there.  No probs they will print them.  She also noticed that that Air NZ had printed ‘no meal’ on our tickets.  We have bought ‘The Works’ which contains checked in luggage, entertainment and a meal amongst other things.  The agent will follow up and get back to us. 

So these are just minor problems but are exactly why I wanted to pick my tickets up early enough.

In the brochure are a list of the optional tours.  It looks like they have to be booked in advance so I will have a bit of fun working out which ones I will do.

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