16 days all over New Zealand

Nov 9th, 2009, 10:10 PM
  #21  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Well, you've inspired me to give kayaking a try on my next visit to Abel Tasman. I'm glad you enjoyed the WOW museum and the Pororari River Track too, beautiful walk that one.

Regarding the The Rock Snot Cafe....rock snot is a reference to Didymo, an invasive freshwater alga that has infected several lakes and rivers on the South Island. Can't say I'd have chosen that particular name for a cafe though...
Melnq8 is offline  
Nov 10th, 2009, 06:05 AM
  #22  
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Thanks Melnq8, now I know the meaning of Rock Snot, and also the meaning of Didymo. We saw signs pertaining to Didymo everywhere, but could not figure out what it was. Now I am better informed.
indiancouple is offline  
Nov 10th, 2009, 06:31 AM
  #23  
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Day 9 : Tuesday, Oct 27th : FOX GLACIER :

There was no pressure to get up early, but by force of habit, we were all up and about by 7 am. We had booked the previous evening for a half-day guided walk on the Fox Glacier at 1:30 pm, because the weather forecast then was “clearing in the morning, and fine by afternoon”. Well, the weather man had goofed up again. For it was the clearest day yet in our NZ trip so far. Not a trace of any cloud anywhere, and bright bright sunshine.

We called up the Fox guided walk office at 7:30 am, to check if we could pre-pone our walk. Fortunately, 4 seats were available for the 9:30 am walk, and we grabbed them. We had breakfast, and left the hotel by 9 am, reaching the Guided Walk office soon thereafter. Bought some warm gloves and caps at their souvenir office, not realizing that we would have no use for them on this wonderful day.

The briefing started at 9:45 am, and after booting up, we left by bus for a short ride to the glacier carpark. From there, our walk started at 10:30 am. First a short walk through a riverbed, and then a steady uphill climb, followed by a series of 700 steps ! It was extremely tiring, but somehow we kept plodding along, and did well. Nice waterfalls and streams everywhere. The walk was essentially through a rainforest, alongside the glacier. Great views everywhere.

By noon, we were at the edge of the ice, and put on our crampons. Our guide was a young 25 year old from Iceland (Atli), and was very good. We gingerly took our first few steps on the ice, and felt a rush of exhilaration – walking on an actual glacier !! I found the Fox Glacier much prettier than Franz Josef. The experience of walking on the glacier was fabulous, and we loved the views. Most of the walking was on a path or steps cut out in the ice. Met a lady running around all over the glacier with a 3-month baby in her backpack, and the baby was having a ball !

We had to finally leave the ice by 1:15 pm, and we started the return walk, reaching our bus by 2:30 pm. Very tiring. Boots felt very heavy now. I did loose my footing once and fell down, but fortunately no injury. We drove back to the Boot camp, and it was a great relief to get back into our shoes. We slowly limped outside to the Plateau Café nearby, where I immediately downed a bottle of Montieth Black. Then a nice meal of Pumpkin soup, excellent garlic bread, pasta and mini spring-rolls.

After lunch we returned to our hotel to relax a bit. Filled the bathtub/jacuzzi in the toilet with hot water. We all sat around it on chairs, dipping our feet in the nice circulating hot water, and felt very relieved. We rested for some time, and finally at 5:30 pm we were itching to go again. We knew that a great clear day like this was a rarity, and we wanted to make the most of it. We headed off to Lake Matheson, and did the circular walk around the lake. Beautiful views of Mt Cook and Mt Tasman on such a clear day. Loved the “Reflection Island”, where we could just sit on a bench for a long time and gaze at the near-perfect reflection of the peaks in the lake. It was close to being a mirror reflection, but for a trace of a ripple. Waited for over 30 minutes, but the faint ripples would not go away. Tough luck. Can’t have everything I guess.

Drove to town. Ordered some takeaway at Café Neve, and returned to our motel. Had a nice meal with the takeaways, plus some packaged soups. Did some laundry, and went to bed by 10:30 pm. What a memorable day it had been.
indiancouple is offline  
Nov 10th, 2009, 09:05 AM
  #24  
 
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indiancouple,
I just returned on Sat from a 2 week trip through the SI w/ a week in Melbourne so you're taking me back! I so wish I were still there!
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Nov 10th, 2009, 11:30 AM
  #25  
 
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Indiancouple, your report is making me jealous and leaning toward a return for a 7th visit. My last trip I must have had all the bad weather that you managed to avoid.

Especially feeling pangs from the description of Montieth Black and some pumpkin soup!
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Nov 10th, 2009, 08:10 PM
  #26  
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mglb, if you want guaranteed good weather in NZ, you just have to take us along. Small price to pay for getting good weather !!
indiancouple is offline  
Nov 11th, 2009, 12:04 AM
  #27  
 
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I am enjoying your report immensely. It sounds like you really got into the kiwi experience.

Good on ya, mate.
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Nov 11th, 2009, 12:22 AM
  #28  
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Thanks kiwi rob. Trying to finish this report tonight, as I have a long business trip starting tomorrow.

Day 10 : Wednesday, Oct 28th : QUEENSTOWN :

Again a lazy start. Breakfast, checking out of hotel, and on the road by 9:45 am. Today was a long drive to Queenstown, and it was supposed to be a gorgeous drive. The weather was cloudy, which we did not mind one bit, as it did not interfere with anything we had to do today. Thank God we had completed our Fox glacier hike and the Lake Matheson walk the previous day.

Made several short lookout stops before Haast, at Bush Bay, and then at Knight’s Point. Lovely views everywhere. Stopped again at Ship’s Creek (just before Haast). Wanted to go on the Dune Lake Track, but it had started raining a bit by then, so we gave it a miss. At one place (don’t remember its location), there was a gorgeous river flowing in a gorge, and as we crossed the bridge, I was forced to make a stop and walk back to the bridge to admire the views.

Pit stop at Haast for coffee, and re-started by 12:30 pm. Stopped briefly at the Fantail waterfalls. Before we knew it, we had crossed the Haast Pass, and the views just kept getting better. As we made our approach to Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea, the views were indescribably good, and we were stopping ever so often to click pictures.

The weather had cleared up magically, as we made our way into Wanaka and stopped at Puzzle World. Real funky place. Great photo ops, especially of the “Leaning Tower” outside and the “Roman Toilets” inside ! Then drove into town, and had a late lunch at 3:30 pm at the “Relishes Café” by the lakefront. Had garden salad, carrot + cumin + coriander soup, risotto, grilled foccacia and fries. Decent and filling meal.

Strolled on the lakefront for a while, which was extremely beautiful. A touch windy that day. Then roamed all over the various shops near the lakefront. Bought some souvenirs, and left at 5:15 pm. Wanaka surely deserved more time, but time is one thing we were short on. So many lovely places to see and so little time !

We had wanted to take the scenic route to Queenstown via the Kuwarau Gorge, but the GPS navigated us through a shorter route on a mountainous road. As we approached Queenstown, the weather kept getting very very windy, and rain was coming down a fair bit. We reached our motel, the Alexis Motor Lodge by 6:30pm and took some rest after a long day of driving.

We had not planned on much activity at Queenstown that evening, so the windy weather didn’t bother us much. At about 8 pm we left for dinner at a Mexican restaurant “Sombrero’s” on Beach Street. Turned out to be one of our most enjoyable meals of the trip. Started with berry-margheritas, and feasted on Burritos, Tacos, Fajitas, Quesadillas and of course the Jalapenos. Excellent food and great ambience.

Left the restaurant by 10 pm. Strolled around a few souvenir shops that were still open (finally a town that does not shut down at 5 pm !). Then did not grocery shopping for breakfast and hit the bed at midnight.
indiancouple is offline  
Nov 11th, 2009, 12:54 AM
  #29  
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Day 11 : Thursday Oct 29th : QUEENSTOWN :

Same morning routine. Hearty omelette breakfast, and out by 9:45 am. The weather outlook for the day was partial clouds, but no rain. Decided to defer the gondola ride up Queenstown for the next day, when the weather promised to be even clearer.

First stop for the day was the A J Hackett Bungy jumping bridge at Kuwarau Gorge. Saw two separate people do the bungy jump. They pay up, get all wired up, and then the petrified look on their face when they are about to jump…the crowd eggs them on, the bungy staff step in to reassure…and suddenly they leap !! Great views on both sides of the bridge, but wild horses would not get any of us to leap away. Saw their nice movie on the history of bungy jumping, and bought shot-glass souvenirs of the historic bungy site.

Then we drove to Arrowtown. I will rate this place as the best on the entire NZ trip. I was completely enchanted by the place, and could understand why many Fodorites prefer staying in Arrowtown instead of Queenstown. One day, one day, I will buy me a cute little mansion in Arrowtown, and live happily ever after !! Well preserved like an old mining town. And the Chinese settlement area was extremely picturesque and scenic. So many quaint shops everywhere. Lovely antique candy store, with hundreds of old-styled coloured candies. Exquisite galleries devoted to art and photography. Loved the cute post office. Everything was magical in this place, and I am so glad we did not miss out on Arrowtown.

Sat down at a garden table of the prettiest café on Earth, called “Stables” (although the cozy inside room looked equally tempting). Had coffee, and kept arguing about whether the inside seating was better or the outside. Bought all kinds of candy from the store, and forced ourselves to leave by 1:30 pm.

For lunch, we stopped at Amisfield Bistro, halfway between Arrowtown and Queenstown. I believe it is rated amongst the 10 best restaurants in NZ. We started with the wine-tasting session, which was great fun. Tasted two kinds of White wine, one Rose and a Red. Loved the Rose, and bought a bottle, which also served to make our wine-tasting event free ! Then had a marvellous lunch of Zuchini Trifolati, Bruschetta, Grilled Asparagus and Roast Potatoes. Everything was extremely well cooked, and very delicately flavoured. And the grand finale was the dessert of Pistachio Cake. Yummy !

At 3 pm we left the restaurant, and drove to the Shotover Jet point.A trip was starting at 3:30 pm, and we were just in time. Had an amazing 45 min ride on the Shotover River, in a never-to-be-missed experience. Lovely river, with rocky banks, very narrow for most of the part, and very little water at places. And a wicked driver, who takes you at jet speed so close to the rocky banks, that you miss the sharp edges by inches ! Not to forget the many 360 degree spins. A must do experience in Queenstown.

Drove into downtown Queenstown, and parked our car with some difficulty. At about 5 pm, we were walking towards the lakefront, and who can help but fall in love with the views ? Walked over to Williams Cottage, but it had just closed. Walked all around the Queenstown gardens, which was a nice walk by the lakefront. At the end of the walk, we reached a “Bowling Green Club”, where a lot of elderly people were playing a strange bowling game in the gardens. A very pretty sight. Then walked across the gardens back to Williams Cottage. Sat down at a café/pub on the waterfront and had coffee, with Asian springrolls and samosas, which were delectably prepared.

At 7 pm we located an internet café and checked our mails, and generally strolled around downtown area. Inspected everything on Shotover St and Beach St, before resting at “Little India” restaurant on Shotover St. Had heard a lot about this restaurant, and it did not disappoint. Had Paneer Shimla mirch, Alu matar gobi, and Onion kulchas. Good food.

Then drove home by 9:30 pm. Chatted for a while and went to bed at 11 pm. It had been a beautiful day, but can it ever be otherwise in Queenstown ?
indiancouple is offline  
Nov 11th, 2009, 01:34 AM
  #30  
 
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Now you're making me hungry - so glad you liked Little India, my favorite NZ restaurant! I've always thought NZ was perfect for vegetarians.

"So many lovely places to see and so little time !"

Yep, the age old problem of planning trips to NZ. Never enough time.
Melnq8 is offline  
Nov 11th, 2009, 03:47 AM
  #31  
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So true Melnq8. The good part is that there are plenty of excuses to go back to NZ for a repeat visit. We have missed out on Kaikoura, Dunedin....and of course that cottage I must buy in Arrowtown !
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Nov 11th, 2009, 04:25 AM
  #32  
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Day 12: Friday, Oct 30th : TE ANAU :

Woke up to another splendid day, with bright sunshine and clear skies. Finished breakfast and checked out of our motel by 9:30 am. Although I have mentioned “Te Anau” against today’s itinerary above, we planned to be in Queenstown the whole day, and go to Te Anau only late in the evening. Started the day by driving off to Glenorchy.

I was totally unprepared for the beauty that unfolded before me. I was driving, and my eyes kept straying to the vistas beyond, and with each “Wow” that I uttered, my co-passengers were getting very nervous, and begged me to keep my eyes on the road. I would rate this drive as the best in the entire trip, and the best that I have ever undertaken, even better that the famed drive to Milford Sound that we would encounter the next day. The drive is not as “hyped” as the Milford Sound drive, so expectations were modest, and the rewards were plentiful. The drive was all along Lake Wakatipu, and you just have to stop frequently to click pictures. Finally, at about 20 km before Glenorchy, there was a vista which merited a triple “Wow”…. so majestic in its beauty. There was no signage anywhere to give its name, but we later found that it was the famed Bennett’s Bluff. We just HAD to stop there, and gape, and gape, and could not get enough. Probably the most beautiful single sight anywhere on this trip. A string of snow-capped mountains all around the lake – simply stunning.

Continued driving to Glenorchy, and on reaching there went into the small Information Centre. Based on their advice, we went first to the beautiful wharf and loafed around. Then came to the “Town Centre” (if you can call it that, in this tiny hamlet) and stopped at a very cute looking café. Lovely outdoor seating in the warm sun, where we had some coffee. Then drove to the Lagoon, and took the 30 min circular walk on the boardwalk around the lagoon. Very pretty sights, and benches at very frequent intervals. Thoroughly enjoyed the walk. Exited through the Golf Course, and passed a group of tourists on horsebacks. Then reached our car, and drove back to Queenstown, stopping once again at Bennett’s Bluff of course.

At Queenstown, we parked in a Pay Park garage on Church St, and went to Dux de Lux for a round of beer. It is a micro-brewery which brews its own beer. Had some wonderful Sow’ester Black Beer. Then we hopped over to “@thai” restaurant next door, which turned out to be an excellent choice. Had Pad Thai, very spicy Papaya Salad, and Chilli Vegetables with Jasmine Rice. Excellent food and highly recommended.

Bought some insect repellent at a pharmacy (we had managed fine without it so far, but people had warned us about the sandflies in Milford). Then proceeded to ride the Gondola to the top of the mountain. The gondola ride was as expected, but the views from the top were simply spectacular. The Lake Wakatipu looks very pretty with its two “arms” jutting in between, one arm of the golf course, and one of the Queenstown gardens. The Remarkables, on a clear day like today, were really remarkable. And paragliders whizzing past, people doing bungy jumps or Sky swings. The images from here will remain etched in my mind forever.

Went for a series of 3 Luge rides; first on the amateur track, then the next two on the advanced track. Great great fun.

Came back to the viewing deck and gaped some more. Reluctantly, at 5 pm we had to pull ourselves away, and we rode the gondola down. Walked to the lakefront, and had yummy ice-creams at Patagonias. Then retrieved our car from the parking lot, and started off at 6 pm on the road to Te Anau, reaching there at 8:15 pm. We were booked at another B & B cottage there : the Birchwood Cottages. The drive was very pretty, with lovely rolling meadows and sheep and baby lambs. But we had seen much better stuff the last 2 days, so everything paled in comparison.

Settled in at our cottage, and went for dinner to town. Very few places were open at that hour (9 pm). Sat down at the Fiordland café, where we had Pizzas, Lasagne, Nachos and Garlic bread. Pretty good food. Retired to sleep late at 11:30 pm.
indiancouple is offline  
Nov 11th, 2009, 04:26 AM
  #33  
 
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Just wanted to chime in how much I enjoyed your TR. I now have some more ideas for our own trip in Jan/Feb.
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Nov 11th, 2009, 05:08 PM
  #34  
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Thanks rickandpat, we aim to please !!
indiancouple is offline  
Nov 11th, 2009, 05:09 PM
  #35  
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Day 13: Saturday, Oct 31st : TE ANAU :

This day was supposed to be the high point of our trip, when we were scheduled to do the Milford Sound cruise. Our hosts had checked the weather forecast the previous night. It was slated to be a fine clear day. When we woke up, we did see some low clouds, but our hosts assured us that they would be soon gone. By the time we completed our breakfast, and left for Milford, the clouds had started disappearing. As the day progressed, the weather just got better and better.

The first stop was at McKay Creek, which offered pleasant views, with a nice creek running along. Then came the Mirror Lakes, which were reputed to offer perfect reflections of the mountains in the water. This time (unlike Lake Matheson), there was not even the hint of a ripple, and our cameras captured absolute mirror reflections. Another lookout stop at Falls Creek, and yet another at the northern end of Lake Gunn. Then, just after the Divide, the fabulous vistas unfolded, and we stopped at Pop’s View for the panoramic view of the valley. Also encountered the first of many Kea birds.

After the Divide, we took the detour road to Gunn’s Camp. Found it to be a very cute camping spot, with a nice souvenir shop thrown in. Then drove along almost to the road’s terminal point, and took the walking trail to Humboldt Falls. Nice walk, and rewarding views of the falls from a distance. Then drove all the way back to the Divide, and resumed the drive on the Milford road.

At this point, we were stopping every 2-3 minutes, as the views were just getting better. Very different landscape from anything we had seen so far in NZ. The ice was reaching the roadside. Kea birds everywhere. Romped around a little on the ice at the roadside. Kept making slow progress till we reached the Homer Tunnel. After that, we did not stop anywhere, promising to cover whatever was left out on the return journey. By 1:15 pm we were at the Milford Sound car park.

Went into the Blue Duck Café to have lunch. When we told the café people that we were booked on the 1:50 pm cruise, they advised us to pack our lunch and head straight down to the dock. We packed sandwiches, fries, samosas, cakes and quiche, and hurried down to the cruise dock. Made it in comfortable time, and ate our lunch there, while we waited for the boat to get ready.

We had opted for the 1:50 pm Mitre Peak cruise, based on suggestions of many Fodorites. Their boats are the smallest, and therefore go nearest to the shores and coves. The 1:50 pm timing was also recommended by Fodorites, as this timing escapes the tour group bus-loads. The advice was bang on target. There were only 12 of us on board, including our own party of 4 people. Well, what can I write about a Milford Sound cruise on a bright clear day, that has not been written already a thousand times ? I will not attempt to describe the beauty in words; it simply has to be experienced. Some posters here have mentioned being under-whelmed by the cruise. Not so for us. It exceeded our wildest expectations, and we loved the sights. Did see a lot of seals, and also a penguin or two. And when the skipper guided the boat under a waterfall, and the spray hit us on the deck, we were in heaven ! Never seen anything so beautiful in life.

The cruise got over at 3:45 pm. We silently walked back to the car park, and started our return drive. First stop was at the Chasm, where we took the Chasm walk. This is a must-see in my opinion. The views are most wonderful, and should not be missed. Then crossed the Homer Tunnel and stopped at many places that had been omitted in the onward journey, like Gertrude Valley, and Cascade Creek. At Cascade Creek, we undertook the 45 min walk to Lake Gunn and back, and thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a gorgeous walk through a beech forest, with lots of spongy moss growing everywhere. A very easy and refreshing walk. Last stoppage was at Te Anau Downs, and we finally returned to Te Anau by 7:30 pm.

I wish to thank Fodorites for suggesting to us to spend 2 nights at Te Anau, rather than do the Milford Sound as a day trip from Queenstown. There is so much to see and do on the Milford road, that it would be impossible to do justice to it, if one were to day-trip from Queenstown.

At Te Anau, we went for dinner to the Olive Tree Café, which had been highly recommended by our hosts, and it did not disappoint. Very nice trendy place, with amazing food. We had the Pumpkin + Chilli soup, Tortilla wraps, a Thai Green Curry on rice, and some wonderful dessert. One of the best meals of the trip. Cooking was excellent.

Did some grocery shopping, filled up on petrol, and settled our cottage bill with the hosts during the night itself. We were in bed with fond memories by 10:30 pm.
indiancouple is offline  
Nov 11th, 2009, 05:10 PM
  #36  
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Day 14 : Sunday Nov 1st : TWIZEL / MT COOK :

We had a long drive ahead of us today, and we took an early start from Te Anau at 7:45 am. It was a long and insipid drive, with not much to rave about. By 10 am we were at the AJ Hackett Bungy bridge at Kuwarau Gorge, where we had a coffee break. Then the drive to Mt Cook resumed.

We were scheduled to spend the night at Twizel, and spend the afternoon at Mt Cook. We called up to the activity desk of the Hermitage on the way, and enquired about the Glacier Explorer Tour. We learnt that the extended schedules of summer had not yet kicked in, and the last trip today was at 2 pm, weather permitting (forecast was not good). So there was no time to stop at Twizel and unload our luggage, but we drove on straight to Mt Cook, stopping once at the Kuwarau Gorge and once at Lake Pukaki for the views.

We reached the Hermitage at 1:10 pm. Had a quick lunch in the cafeteria of some pasta, veggies and lemon meringue. Then off to join the Glacier Explorer tour. We were lucky to get slots, as we learnt that this tour gets sold off in advance even during this time of the year.

First, a 10 min bus ride, followed by a 25 min easy walk, and then on to the boat on Tasman Glacier Lake. What followed was an exhilarating 75 min boat-ride on the lake, with icebergs all around you, and the milky white glacier waters of the lake. The icebergs all had names, including one called Sir Edmund Hillary ! Sometimes the boat went very close to the icebergs, and we could scoop out the ice and eat them. It was a unique experience, in lovely clear weather (what happened to the gloomy weather forecast ??). Finally, we returned to shore at 5 pm. The only regret was that despite the excellent weather, the peak of Mt Cook remained shrouded in clouds all through.

We had coffee at the Hermitage café, and then drove to the campsite nearby. Here we parked the car, and went for a short walk towards Hooker Valley, in the direction of Mueller Glacial Lake. The walk was 15 min each way, till the first swingbridge on the lake. Nice views, but winds so fierce that I felt I would be blown away from the swingbridge.

Started our return drive from Mt Cook at about 6:45 pm towards Twizel, reaching our destination farm cottage at Omahau Downs by 7:30 pm. It was a lovely original farm cottage set in a huge property, with 3 bedrooms. Very quaint and rustic in character, and we fell in love with it immediately.

Left for dinner at 8 pm to the Poppies Café. The décor was exceptional. We had another wonderful meal of Potato Gnochi, Pizza and Risotto, followed by dessert of Chocolate + Mint mousse with berries and sorbet. Seems like the cooking standards everywhere in NZ is just excellent.

Returned to our wonderful cottage, lit a fire in the fireplace, sipped our Rose wine purchased near Arrowtown, and went to bed late.
indiancouple is offline  
Nov 11th, 2009, 08:11 PM
  #37  
 
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I cannot believe how lucky you were with the weather!
Melnq8 is offline  
Nov 11th, 2009, 09:35 PM
  #38  
ih
 
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Posts: 95
Very detailed and interesting report.thanks for all the info. i will be doing the same route from 27thDec- 10th jan for 2 weeks. What would u say are the must do's and the ones that we can overlook.
Anything u would have done differently?
How is mt cook view motel at Fox?
ih is offline  
Nov 12th, 2009, 02:19 PM
  #39  
 
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Love your travel journal, we are making almost the same trip end of March and beginning of April! we are taking your journal with us, who needs lonely planet etc!!!
And with the advice of mlgb, some of our hiking will be on the Arrowtown golf course. And we have noted melnq8's ideas...now you have confirmed them.
We are cheating a little, with 14 days we are flying from Rotorua to Queenstown, and Nelson to Christchurch...it is so hard to decide! Our big adventure is going to be the overnight cruise on Doubtful Sound and just the drive to Milford. Think we should do a tour or drive ourselves?

Thanks for the great report!
arbeeo is offline  
Nov 12th, 2009, 09:28 PM
  #40  
 
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indiancouple-
Having a great time reading your TR and plan to print it out as I'm leaving for NZ in a month and will likely take some of your suggestions for restaurants and touring. Keep it coming. Thanks.
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