A Travellerspoint blog

E noho ra Aotearoa

Crazy things.

sunny 16 °C
View Travelling with the Kiwis. on Darlene Elder's travel map.

The market place restaurant was great, it is a really good concept but the only problem is you eat way too much because you want to eat something that each of the 4 chefs has prepared and there is the dessert bar. It is a very social and relaxed atmosphere as everyone walks around and the staff are clearly trained to interact and get everyone talking about the food. They were really keen for us to try some wines too but I made it very clear no more wine for me.....today.
We had expected according to the long day forecast that our day of departure would be overcast with drizzle but we opened the curtains to our snow capped Alps and blue skies. We forced ourselves to pack up and check out, at least we still had one more day here. After over eating at dinner and because we had something specific planned for lunch Rob decided a toasted sandwich was in order. Easier said than done toasted sandwiches are not readily available. Plenty of cafes had toast, bagels, foccacias and paninis but the good old toasted sanga was nowhere to be seen. An hour later after several suggestions from a very patient wife dealing with a hangry husband I spotted a bakery with fresh sandwiches and said I am sure they will toast them if we ask. Thank goodness the lovely ladies at the Queenstown bakery were happy to oblige. More wandering around the shops and I convinced Rob to have a massage. You know its not hopeful when you walk into one of those massage places and without even coming out from the curtain they say "you want massage you come back one hour". No writing your name down, nothing. We sat on the wharf in the sun watching all the boats come and go. We go back to massage place and from behind the curtain " we very busy not today thankyou". The toasted sandwich now this. Lets not storm off back to the car there must be heaps of places for all the injured skiiers and adventurers to go. There it was the one that could provide a madsage immediately, down a tiny back lane up some narrow stairs, yep see you in an hour.
A very relaxed and happy Rob emerged an hour and a half later because she said everything "very tight." Next stop Fergburgers for lunch. We had noticed on both our visits to Queenstown that there was one eatery that always had a queue that spilled out onto the street no matter what time of the night or day. At first we thought must be trendy for some reason or maybe really cheap for backpackers, but on closer inspection there were people of all ages and cultures lined up for a burger. So because of our FOMO we had to try one. I am not a massive burger fan and we only ordered the very basic one they were really good. I suppose when they offer you a choice of 4 different cheeses including brie you know they are trying hard. It must be making someone alot of money.
Okay what now, back to the Bee Centre for some final purchases and then Rob suggested we drive the 15km to Arrowtown for a coffee just because it is such a beautiful spot. Rob suggested I decide coffee or wine and beer. The sun was shining our table was outside in a pretty spot so coffee seemed a waste and when I looked at the drinks list I noticed there was a Pinot Gris from a Winery called Wet Jacket. We had driven past this winery at some stage and I commented how much I loved the name and how beautiful the location was, shame we don't have time to stop. So it was meant to be my last wine in NZ would be a Wet Jacket one. It is the best Pinot Gris I have ever had so next stop Arrowtown liquor store. Sorry Greg only makes wines for restaurants and bars he doesn't provide them to bottle shops and supermarkets but his winery isn't far from here. Nevermind no time and no space in our luggage. We will be back!
NZ likes to be a bit quirky and they are good at it. Fancy calling Baby Chinos "fluffies" and speed humps "Judder bars" and having gates manned by children that actually close the road so that no cars can enter when school is out! Crazy and yet often very clever too.
Time to head home. Xx

Posted by Darlene Elder 23:07 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

It's been an education.

Time to relax.

sunny 18 °C
View Travelling with the Kiwis. on Darlene Elder's travel map.

I chose a hotel with lakeviews for our last 2 nights in Queenstown and it is lovely even though you have to keep reminding yourself the snow capped alps are real. Even though we are so close to the snow the weather has been mild. Today was sunny again and we started with a stroll around town a bit more shopping and browsing. I thought we had decided to skip breakfast and have an early lunch but then Rob spotted a sign advertising a cooked breakfast for $10 and couldn't resist. We decided we would take a 20 min drive out to the AJ Hackett bridge which is a historic bridge built in 1880 built because many miners had drowned in the fast flowing river when they tried to cross in their search for gold. It has in recent times been famous for the fact that it was the first place in the world bungee jumping began. I knew it began in NZ but I wasn't aware that AJ Hackett and his friends knew that even though they had tested their system time and time again and knew it was safe it wasn't going to be easy convincing the general public to have a go. So he decided to bungee jump from the Eiffel Tower and while he was arrested and briefly detained it literally got his business off the ground!
We headed to the bridge and no surprises it is in a stunning location. It links one side of the gorge with the other and the river that runs beneath is both beautiful and dangerous.
We walked across the bridge which is open to the public even though there are people jumping off regularly. I have seen lots of bungee jumping on screen but it is quite another to really see people do it. I lnow I could never do it but I think I could watch someone I care about do it
Strangely once you have seen it happen a couple of times it seems quite safe. They also have a zipline set up for people want something a little less scary than bungee jumping. Both options had a steady flow of people having a go.
We decided we have had enough of driving so the bridge was about as far out of towm as we wanted to go. I had messaged Heather and asked if they could visit any winery in the Queenstown area and she said Gibbston Valley Winery. Perfect it was a 3 minute drive from the bridge, it was meant to be. We started with a tasting and were very impressed. We have noticed that in NZ the taste testing involves very generous amounts of wine. After 8 samples we signed up for something, we may have shares in the company I can't be sure I was floating through the cellar door. It seemed like a wise move to havr lunch which was scrumptious. I had definately decided to give wine a miss with the meal but when I saw you know what on the drinks menu I had to give NZ ome last shot to get it right. Points were lost for serving it in a whiskey glass but the taste was good. The winery is beautifully set out with lovely gardens and scenic surrounds.
Something else I have learnt alot about is the Manuka honey industry over here. Just by chance a few days before we left Rob called me while I was at Woolies asking me to buy some Manuka honey. Okay no worries, hang on do you realise it is $20 for a small container. Why do you want it? A guy from the electrical wholesaler said it will help my cough. So once we arrived in NZ and I realized it is practically in every shop you go to I decided I needed to become more informed. I have spoken to a number of experts particularly about the different ratings and huge prices as the numbers on the jar go up. Why genuine manuka honey is only produced 8n NZ and then there is the propolis factor as well. It is such a huge industry with lots of anecdotal evidence about its health benefits. I will have to look into the long term research when I get home. It is hard to imagine that people would spend 100s of dollars per container of honey/capsules etc but I suppose people will spend almost anything if they believe a peoduct to have healing powers.
Tonight we are going to eat at the hotel as they offer something we have never experienced before. They refer to their restaurant as a marketplace with a walking/talking menu. There is a number of chefs in different locations in the restaurant and you go around and chat to them about the food they are preparing and you choose a number of courses. I think that is how it works, will let you know.

Posted by Darlene Elder 22:40 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

Living in a postcard

On the road again.

sunny 18 °C
View Travelling with the Kiwis. on Darlene Elder's travel map.

So the Speights Brewery Tour was actually quite good and very interesting. It included the settlement of Dunedin and the tour guide was a very good storyteller. He looked alot like John Hudson, Julie's dad, so was instantly very likeable with a sharp wit. We finished with beer tastings and strangely enough the correct way to taste beer is exactly the same as wine! And yes apparently you should drink beer at room temperature. Rob had my share of the beer tastings so clearly I needed to even things out. We had noticed an Italian restaurant near the hotel and I was hopefu that they may have Aperol Spritz on the drink list. We very nearly didn't go in as Rob noticed that the pizzas included in the gourmet section were either chicken or vegetarian which was almost a deal breaker. I know we have got to a stage in our lives now where we don't waste time on the pizzas listed under traditional on the menu we go straight to gourmet but if they hsve Aperol its the price Rob will have to pay.
So yes we had dinner at Zucchini Bros (for some reason name reminded me of a circus?) which got off on the wrong foot when I orderd my Aperol Spritz and the waiter said "how do you spell that?" Oh dear....chances are if the staff don't know how to spell it they probably don't how to make it. It was drinkable but disappointing. However to be fair they probably use the correct ratio of Aperol, Prosecco and Soda which I think I may have altered over time.
This morning we wandered around Dunedin's city centre, Rob finally got a haircut AND a shave which took an hour out of valuable shopping time at a barber called "Bloke - Where Men Come First." Fairy disrespectful as today marked the 125th Anniversary of women getting the vote in NZ. it was the first country in the world to allow women to vote! I did not know that, good job Kiwis, see Milt I can acknowledge when NZ beats Australia at something.
Time to hit the road and head back to Queenstown. Let me just say I am really annoyed we didn't bring at least some of Rob's camera equipment this trip. We all use our phones for photos now but there are times when you need a real camera with extra zoom, wide angle lens etc etc. All of which we have at home. So many times today I went to take a photo and just gave up because there was no way it was going to do it justice. This whole trip has been like living in a series of postcards just when you think you have seen the most wonderful thing you see another and another....Today the drive across through Central Otago offered so many different versions of the NZ landscape you were constantly in awe. We had perfect blue skies so the rivers and lakes were showing off their most magnificent shades of blue and green. All the sheep and lambs were back on their green carpet but this time the steepness of the hills made me worry about how those poor wee lambs manage not to fall down. We drove through the old gold mining districts, the fruit growing areas full of blossom trees, more vineyards and once again the snow capped Southern Alps with even more snow than before.
Such beautful towns, we stopped in Roxburgh to try Jimmy's Pies which is all we could see on google when checking the road conditions. Nobody cares about road safety they all just want to go on and on about trying these pies. So we did and they were excellent. While eating our pies all the children were coming out of school (yes it was a very late lunch) and I noticed that children who were walking home alone were wearing visibility vests. Isn't that a great idea?! Then there was Cromwell, it looks like something out of a story book, too perfect to be real. I know the photos will be rubbish but I got to enjoy it firsthand.
Even though it is less than 300kms from Dunedin to Queenstown it took nearly 5 hours with just a few quick stops. The massive gorge was breathtaking as were the steep, windy roads it just took your breath away for different reasons. Nearly all of NZ roads are windy with lots of ups and downs so when you see the signs that indicate "windy road" you know that they mean SLOW DOWN NOW!

Posted by Darlene Elder 03:07 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

What a difference a day makes.

Bucket list....tick

sunny 16 °C
View Travelling with the Kiwis. on Darlene Elder's travel map.

Exhausted but happy after a day of view of natural wonders in The Catlins we found ourself on a motorway heading for Dunedin's city centre. So sad to be back in traffic but looking forward to a hot shower after the cold winds and rain. Didn't say anything out loud but I was concerned about our accomodation in Dunedin. It was same price per night right in city centre with breakfast included....oh no what have I done this time. I really must stop booking things after a couple of Aperol Spritz it really is literally looking through rose coloured glasses. Phew hotel was fine, clearly Australian hotels are a complete rip off it is much cheaper doing a drive and stay holiday over here. Wish I could remember how much it cost us to hire the motor home when we did the top of the North Island a few years ago because I think it would be quite similar.
We got to our room in time to see the local news and could not believe the pictures of Queenstown completely under snow and the Glenorchy Rd (Robs racetrack) was closed due to snow and several fallen trees AND the road to Milford Sound was actually closed. How lucky were we!! Flights out of Queenstown were cancelled, tourists were stranded and we were safe and warm in Dunedin.
Dunedin is much larger than I expected, it is situated on a harbour which always improves the look of a city. It has a Melbourne feel about it with a mixture of the old and the new. It is however very steep.
We woke up to beautiful sun shine, still quite nippy and headed off to see the Royal Albatross colony at the heads leading out into the ocean. From the city centre it is a 50 minute drive out along a stunning peninsula with water and mountain views the entire way. Another very windy, narrow road but the low speed limits work well. The heads are spectacular and worth the drive themselves but to actually get to see the albatross was something I have always wanted to do. They nest on cliff tops and it is just luck as to whether they happen to be in view of the observatory. It is the time of the fledgling time of year so most have left the nests to circumnavigate the world before returning in about 5 years time to breed. They spend 80% of their life at sea. You have to be accompanied by a guide and she started apologizing about the fact that birds were leaving daily so we may not see any and the parents are no longer flying in to feed them as they really should have left the nest by now (remind you of anyone?). So as I was walking up another very steep path I was coming to terms with the fact our timing was not great...there on the cliff in front of us were two of the 4 chicks left in the colony. When I say chicks they are huge between 10 to 12 kilos and while we could see them snuggled down in the grass with the binoculars provided they appeared to be sleeping. Enter from 'stage right' 2 rangers who decided then and there to check on the birds. The birds got up as soon as they saw them coming as they know they are likely to be fed. The ranger struggled to hold and lift the first one into the container for weighing and fed him 3 squid as a supplement to his diet. After eating this big baby went for a hop and awkward walk around stretching out his wings that span 2 metres. We saw this process with the second bird as well, it was such a treat.
Next stop Lanarch Castle which was actually built by an Australian in the 1800s. It is also on the beautiful Otago Peninsula high up in behind all the little bayside villages with mindblowing views. It is obviously an amazing architectural feat to have built this castle but what intrigued me was that a young couple came upon it in the late 60s while honeymooning in a Kombivan. It was derelict and badly damaged so they decided to buy it, live in it and restore it. The family has had it ever since and continue restoration works. I thought we were brave buying the Cockatoo house!! It is a great place to visit you could spend a week in the gardens alone.
We finished the day with a tour of the Speights Brewery, oh well as they say "thems the breaks." x

Posted by Darlene Elder 23:38 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Will we or won't we?

A seal and an eel.

rain 5 °C
View Travelling with the Kiwis. on Darlene Elder's travel map.

We had our last meal in Invercargill at an Irish Pub because Rob was craving bangers and mash. I tried some Brancott Estate Pinot Gris which was very nice. Remember that winery H&M took us to on the side of a mountain for their biscotti breakfast platter? We didn't do any tastings then for obvious reasons but I made up for it last night. The only problem is I keep tasting wine like Milt taught me, roll it over your tounge, aerate the wine and cover the palette or something along those lines. Okay you do get the full flavour but it takes forever to drink a glass, Rob had 2 schooners before I finished one glass! There is hope they I remember the last time he came to Australia and taught me how to get the full flavour of wine it took a couple of weeks but I was able to re teach myself how to just drink wine again.
Before leaving The Grand Hotel we thought we should use the special key Linda gave us to check out the Royal chairs that were made for the Queen and Dukes visit along with other memoriable. Even though we were allowed to do it we both felt a bit jumpy every time it sounded like someone was coming. I know I have joked about staying in a homeless shelter but the truth is it is a great thing they are doing. It was the mayor who contacted Linda to see if she would be prepared to take it on and really you cannot imagine anyone else more perfect than her. We bumped into some of the other tenants, wimen, children and a group of young men who appeared to be recent migrants. They had a large room where they were cooking and it smelled amazing. Upon returning from dinner we found Linda with a young girl in the foyer that she was organising a room for, she looked about 16 and was so sad and I thought thank god for people like Invercargill's mayor and Linda.
Linda walked us out the door in the morning telling me she had googled Cockatoo. She said she was so relieved we weren't driving to Queenstown because the sudden snowfall was a real problem on those roads. We waved goodbye to the lovely Linda and we were on our way. The problem was we really wanted to do a drive along the coast in an area called The Catlins but the weather reports sounded pretty bad. We stopped at the cafe at Bill Richardsons Transport Museum Cafe for breakfast and some decision making. The direct route to Dunedin is just over 2 hrs whereas the Southern Scenic Route is about 5hrs, more if you stop at all the sights? If the weather is really bad it will be a waste but maybe all the news broadcasts are over reacting a bit. Lets do it!
OMG such beautiful country side, rainforests and coastal views. Our first stop was Niagara Falls, those Kiwis are funny buggers it is of course the opposite of the real Niagara Falls, it is the very small falls. I was standing there shaking my head at the terrible attempt at humour when I noticed something in the "falls". It was quite a large seal/sea lion, not sure which, eating an eel. He or she was throwing it around having a lovely play/meal and spa all in one. It was a very special moment because while this river eventually runs into the sea it was inland quite a bit so we were very surprised to see a seal eating an eel (that's a good rhyming sentence for one of your stories Mila). Next stop Curio Bay which is right on the very wild sub Antarctic coast so the wind really was from the Antarctic! Here you see a very rugged coastline and if you are lucky more seals/sea lions as well as Little Blue Penguins and if you are super lucky the elusive Hoiho or yellow eyed penguin. Well guess what no seals/sea lions or little blue penguins but YES a Hoiho. Guess who spotted it good old eagle eyed Rob. This is where I have to admit if it hadn't been for him I wouldn't have seen half the birds we saw on Ulva Island. It's so annoying how good he is at everything no wonder he has way too much self esteem. There were only a few other people walking along the particular track where Hoiho was hiding in the bushes so good old Rob took them all back to see it after telling me to go and check out the visitors centre. Actually he is not very good at sharing the limelight.
The rest of the drive was stunning in so many ways, roads lined with dense rainforest which appeared to have been pruned back from the windy roads to allow better visibility. There is no way all those trees and plants could grow in such a perfect hedge style about 6 metres high. The sheep paddocks consisted of miles of rolling hills with grass so bright green and perfect it looked more like carpet. We got to see what Rob thought was a lamb being born but it was actually the after birth. I did say if that is a lamb being born it certainly doesn't look very well. (Wasn't much good in the delivery suite either as I recall). The real newborn jumped up from grass as soon as mum finished the birthing process to have it's first drink, just lovely.
Lost count of all the rivers and lakes in the various valleys we travelled to and the amazing thing was we hardly saw anyone else. The lighthouse at Waipapa was unfortunately built after 131 people lost their lives when a passenger ship sunk there in the 1880s which is no wonder when you see the treacherous reefs at low tide.
So the weather was a bit wild, windy and wet but mother nature was so kind to us in other ways. We were very pleased we took the 'we will" option.

Posted by Darlene Elder 22:45 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

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