Craig & Jeane Visit New Zealand's South Island

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Feb 27th, 2018, 10:05 AM
  #1
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Craig & Jeane Visit New Zealand's South Island

Hi All,


My wife Jeane and I just returned from 2 weeks on the south island of New Zealand.


Our flights were booked through United and took us from Hartford to Chicago to San Francisco to Auckland and finally to Christchurch via Air New Zealand. We were able to upgrade to Polaris (business) class on the trans-Pacific flight, but we had to settle for Economy Plus for the other flights. Fortunately, United’s lounges were available to us in between flights. The Polaris Lounge at O’Hare was especially impressive.


DAY 1 ARRIVAL IN NEW ZEALAND

On arrival in Auckland we found out why Air New Zealand recommends having at least 3 hours between your International and Domestic flights. Unfortunately we only had 2 hours.. Customs at Auckland included a biosecurity check and we knew in advance that we would have to declare the unopened packages of nuts and granola bars that we brought with us. What caught us by surprise though was that we had to declare any sports equipment (i.e. hiking boots) that had been used outdoors. Not wanting to incur a NZ$400 fine, we dutifully declared everything. Anyway, our hiking boots were a big red flag, sending us to a longer (and slower) line for inspection.


When we finally met with our biosecurity inspector, he informed us that he would have to take our boots to the “lab” to be cleaned. In the meantime we could have our bags x-rayed. Once that was all done, we had less than an hour to our next departure and found we would have to haul our checked bags over to the domestic terminal rather than drop them off just outside of Customs. We correctly figured that it would be quicker to take the 10 minute walk (following the “green line”) rather than rely on the bus between terminals. Bottom line is we were able to check our bags at the domestic terminal and go through security again just in time to make our ongoing flight.


We had the exit row with no one between us for the 1-1/2 hour flight to Christchurch. On arrival we met up with the Supershuttle bus to take us to the Hotel Montreal. Luckily, we were the first in our group to be dropped off. At Reception, we were quickly checked in and shown to our Junior Suite, even though it was early afternoon. After a much-needed shower and settling in a bit, we decided to head to the nearby Botanic Gardens where we found the River Walk that meanders through the city. At the Bridge of Remembrance we left the River Walk and passed by the now permanently closed Container Mall and headed towards the 185 White Chairs memorial.


After a brief reflection at the memorial, we decided it was time for an early dinner as we had had very little to eat that day. We walked three blocks to the Little High Eatery and quickly decided that a Bacon Brothers hamburger would hit the spot. We ordered an “Andy the Electrician” and fries to share along with a beer for me and a lemonade for Jeane. It was a really awesome burger and I would highly recommend this place for a quick bite.


On our walk back to the hotel, we passed both the Christchurch Temporary (“Cardboard”) Cathedral where an evening service was being held and the ruins of the original Christchurch Cathedral. After pausing at the Hotel Montreal gift shop, we headed to our room exhausted and ready to call it a night.


DAY 2 CHRISTCHURCH

We started our day at the very impressive Canterbury Museum. It featured a range of exhibits, including New Zealand’s roles in World War I and the exploration of Antarctica. We had to leave at midday to pick up our Mazda 6 rental car. We would return later on after dropping the car off at our hotel’s large parking lot and checking out the shops on New Regent Street. We finished our exploration of Christchurch with more time in the Botanic Gardens. Dinner that night was at O.G.B. (“Old Government Building”) and was not memorable.


DAY 3 DAY TRIP TO THE BANKS PENINSULA AND AKAROA

It had been sunny and mild for the first two days, but this morning there was a slight drizzle as we headed out of town in our rental car. The weather would improve however, as the day wore on. The drive to Akaroa took about 1-1/2 hours each way and was our first real exposure to the beauty of southern New Zealand. The town of Little River provided for a convenient rest stop about halfway there. While we were unable to visit Akaroa on a day when the were no cruise ships, we managed to navigate the crowds.


Akaroa is much like any cruise ship port town with plenty of souvenir shops and cafes. Jeane had discovered prior to our arrival that there was a shop at the end of the town pier called the Blue Pearl Gallery which sells jewelry made from New Zealand blue pearls. This was a highlight for her as she was able to purchase a beautiful pendant for a silver necklace that she owns. Another highlight for both of us was a visit to The Giant’s House, a whimsical display of terraced gardens with original artworks, sculptures and mosaics. While the admission price for the property was steep, we thoroughly enjoyed our short time there and took lots of photos.


Dinner that night was at Twenty Seven Steps in Christchurch. Our meals were well-presented, but were otherwise a disappointing mix of flavors that did not seem to work well together.


Next: Day 4 A Rainy Drive to Mount Cook Village
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Feb 27th, 2018, 03:01 PM
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Welcome back, Craig and Jeanne. Your series of flights sound exhausting. Just letting you know that I'm following along and am looking forward to more. I'm planning a trip there later this year.
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Feb 27th, 2018, 03:28 PM
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Thanks for posting, Craig and Jeane. Will be following along. You were here at a really interesting time.

Sorry you were held up for a biosecurity check for your hiking boots. At least you didn't miss your connecting flight! I met some travelers from Wisconsin who were held up for 8 hours while their equipment was inpspected and cleaned (tent, boots, other camping equipment, etc.). Sometimes but not always, I'll warn international visitors planning to hike in NZ to clean their boots ahead of time. But I already feel I might be overwhelming people with too much information. Anyhow, I'm glad it all worked out. Regarding the 10-minute green line walk from the international to domestic terminals, I always feels it helps me to wake up after the long international flight.

Interesting, Christchurch's Container Mall is now permanently closed. Did they give a reason?
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Feb 27th, 2018, 03:56 PM
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Oh my Craig, that is disheartening to hear about the additional time for a biosecurity inspection. We leave on Friday for New Zealand and are also bringing hiking and wet wading shoes for fly fishing. However, yesterday I scrubbed the soles of all of the shoes including removing any tiny stones wedged in the crevices so the shoes would be clean. I don't know if this will make a difference, but hope we won't have to go through another inspection after such a long trip. The good thing is that we are staying in Auckland for the night, so no plane to catch. Enjoying your trip report and looking forward to hearing more; I am still putting last minute finishing touches on our itinerary!
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Feb 28th, 2018, 06:38 AM
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Diamantina, here is some info on the Container Mall:
https://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/bu...community-ends
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Feb 28th, 2018, 06:54 AM
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We were in New Zealand exactly a year ago. I have pictures popping up in my FB memories every day, so I've been thinking a lot about that trip this week. Looking forward to following along with your report.

We were sufficiently forewarned about the biosecurity check and had cleaned our boots and poles well. No problem with those getting through the inspection....but when I opened my bag for the inspector, I found that the Ziploc bag full of liquids had burst open during travel and there was something gooey all over the place. The inspector had to spend most of his time on the inspection finding some paper towels and helping me wipe it up and repack the bag!
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Feb 28th, 2018, 11:42 AM
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DAY 4 A RAINY DRIVE TO MOUNT COOK VILLAGE

We enjoyed our stay at Hotel Montreal. A wonderful breakfast was included in our rate and featured several hot and cold choices. The hotel staff were very attentive to our needs and our first floor junior suite was clean, modern and spacious. We departed just prior to the hotel’s 10 AM check-out time. Without stops, the drive to Mount Cook Village takes about 4-1/2 hours. The traffic out of Christchurch was the heaviest we would see throughout our trip. We were surprised at the number of large trucks. In spite of the rain, which came down hard at times, the traffic moved along at close to the posted speed limits. We only stopped twice along the way, early on for a bathroom break and later to check out the Church of the Good Shepherd and misty views of Lake Tekapo. As we approached the village with Lake Pukaki barely visible on our right, we took solace in that we would return by this route, hopefully with better weather.


It was getting toward late afternoon when we arrived for two nights at the Aoraki Court Motel. Check in went quickly and we arranged to have continental breakfasts delivered to us the night before at $15 each. I was given a small container of milk for our coffee or tea. There was plenty of room in the kitchenette refrigerator to keep everything cold. We settled into our sparsely, but adequately furnished room and spent some time checking the upcoming weather and our emails before heading to the Old Mountaineers Cafe for dinner. The Old Mountaineers Cafe was nothing to write home about, but it was pretty much the only game in town unless you wanted to join the tourist hordes at the buffet at the Hermitage. We had interesting chats with our servers who had moved there from Montreal and Latvia. This was our first realization that almost everyone in the service business in southern New Zealand would hail from somewhere else.


After dinner we returned to our hotel room and watched a movie for a while before falling into a fitful sleep in our very comfortable king bed.


DAY 5 AORAKI/MOUNT COOK NATIONAL PARK

The sun was starting to break through when we awoke the next morning. We had one of the units in the rear of the motel complex (#24) and the view from our room was spectacular. I had scheduled a heli-hike to Tasman Glacier for 1 PM so we had some time in the morning for a short walk to start getting a feel for the area. It was a very short drive to the White Horse Hill Campground and the Kea Point trail head. The walk was really easy and we finished it in well under an hour. The views of Mount Cook and the Mueller Glacier made it worthwhile.


Afterward we headed back to the village to the National Park Visitor Centre where we looked at the displays and watched a short film about Mount Cook and its history. While we were there, I received a call from Aoraki Adventures giving us a “heads up” that our helicopter tour might be cancelled due to high winds. They told us to come at 1 PM anyway, just in case conditions should change. So we took the 5 minute drive to the airport. When we arrived, we were told that they would decide whether to go by 1:20 PM, but chances were 99% that they would cancel and would we like to reschedule for tomorrow morning? (Note: Thanks Diamantina for recommending 2 nights at Mount Cook Village!) So yes, we rescheduled for 9 AM the next day and headed back to the White Horse Hill Campground to the trailhead for the Hooker Valley track.


We completed the track in about 2 hours and 40 minutes, in spite of the throngs of other hikers and very high winds. The sun managed to peak from behind the clouds most of the time and Mount Cook was visible throughout the hike to Hooker Lake. Dinner that night was again at Old Mountaineers Cafe and was as forgettable as the first night.

DAY 6 TASMAN GLACIER HELI-HIKE AND ON TO WANAKA

Jeane and I checked out of the Aoraki Court Motel prior to departing for the airport. It was partly sunny that morning and while it was cool out, the wind had subsided a bit. So our heli-hike was on. After we arrived at the airport, the Aoraki Adventure staff fitted our hiking boots for crampons and gave us a brief safety demonstration. We were divided into groups of 6 and each group was assigned to an aircraft. Shortly after piling in with our guide and our pilot, we were in the air for the short ride to the glacier. I should mention that from Mount Cook airport, the heli-hike is a joint venture between Aoraki Adventures and the Helicopter Line. We found that for some reason it was a few dollars less to book the tour through Aoraki Adventures.


On arrival at the glacier our gear was unloaded and we all put on our crampons. After another group was dropped off, we were on our way. It was an easy walk with frequent stops as our guide explained about the makeup of the glacier, its history and how it was diminishing over time. We checked out several crevices and had a chance to fill our water bottles with some of the melting glacier water. The staff had told us that it would be a little cooler on the glacier and most of us were dressed comfortably in layers. After about 2 hours of exploring, our helicopter returned to our landing spot to return us to the airport. All in all, it was a great experience.


It was about noontime, when we departed the airport for the 2-1/2 hour drive to Wanaka. We could clearly see Lake Pukaki with its pretty shade of blue reflected in the sunlight as we headed away from Mount Cook. It was an easy drive and I was coming to appreciate how good the New Zealand roads were. We arrived at our next B&B, Wanaka Haven in the mid-afternoon. Wanaka Haven is located in a rural area about a 5 to 10 minute drive to town. It is new, modern and the only place we stayed that had a pool.


After settling in for a bit, we headed into Wanaka to explore and find a place for an early dinner. Parking was relatively easy as there was a large lot on the west side of town. It was about 5 pm when we arrived and most of the shops were beginning to close. After checking out a couple of places Jeane decided that she would return the next day to continue shopping. With that in mind, we headed to Relishes Cafe, which our host at Wanaka Haven had recommended. When we got there, the hostess told us they were fully booked, so we made a reservation for the following evening. Our next stop was Kika, which I knew did not take reservations. They were able to take us right away and we wound up having a delicious meal, splitting a huge serving of lamb shoulder, accompanied by nice New Zealand pinot noir. After dinner, we headed back to our B&B. While Jeane checked her emails, I took a refreshing dip in the heated pool. Afterward we were pretty much ready to retire for the evening.


Next: Day 7 Diamond Lake and Rocky Mountain Summit Track
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Feb 28th, 2018, 03:27 PM
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Craig, thanks for the link to the article about the Container Mall. Mixed feelings. Sad to see the small pop-up businesses go, but a farmers market will bring more fresh local goods to the inner city. Yes, Christchurch's traffic woes radiate some distance beyond the city. A lot of former Christchurch residents have relocated south to Dunedin and that's been their main complaint, though our traffic has gotten worse, too, over the last few years.

Enjoyed reading about your visit to Aoraki Mt. Cook. How were the views from your glacier hike? Approximately how long did the heli flight take and how long did you get walk around the glacier?
I've not eaten at the Old Mountaineers Cafe and will continue to avoid it--thanks for the heads-up. .

Still following along.
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Feb 28th, 2018, 03:35 PM
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Diamantina, views were good on the glacier hike - we could see Mount Cook most of the time as well as the surrounding terrain. The heli flight took about 15 minutes and then we had 2 hours+ on the glacier.
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Feb 28th, 2018, 09:41 PM
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Wow, that sounds fantastic, Craig. Clear views of Aoraki Mt. Cook! Heli time and glacier walk time also sound excellent.
I've only walked Franz Josef glacier, but the Aoraki Mt. Cook glacier walk sounds well worth doing. as well. Yours is the second glowing review of a heli hike out of Aoraki Mt. Cook I've read in the past year (the other was by Phishears). I'm getting very tempted now.
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Mar 1st, 2018, 11:29 AM
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DAY 7 DIAMOND LAKE AND ROCKY MOUNTAIN SUMMIT TRACK

We started our day exchanging Valentines Day cards and then enjoyed a delicious hot and cold breakfast, accompanied by plenty of fruit. At mid-morning we made the 25 minute drive to the Diamond Lake trailhead and started our uphill climb to the Rocky Mountain summit. It was a great day for this hike - sunny and warm. While the lower part of the track is forested, the upper part is exposed, so it was necessary to apply sunscreen and drink plenty of water. We took the western route up and the eastern route down, allowing for fabulous views on our descent. At the summit the views of Lake Wanaka and the surrounding mountains were absolutely stunning. Since we hiked all the way to the summit, we skipped the Wanaka viewpoint. The round trip took just under 3 hours.


We returned to Wanaka Haven for a quick shower and afterward I drove Jeane into town, so she could spend the remainder of the afternoon shopping. We agreed to meet again for our 6 PM reservation at Relishes Cafe and I returned to our B&B to spend some time relaxing on one of our two private porches. I went back into town at 6 to meet Jeane for dinner. She had had a productive afternoon picking up several items of clothing, much of it being the “merino mink” blend of lambs wool and possum fur found throughout New Zealand. We enjoyed Relishes’ interesting menu and wines by the glass, although our server could have been more knowledgeable. Afterward we took a short walk on the path across the road by the lake before returning to Wanaka Haven.


DAY 8 A LONG DRIVE TO TE ANAU

We would have enjoyed another day at Wanaka Haven and have had time to do another hike in the area but that was not to be. We bid farewell to our pleasant hosts and headed towards our first destination of the day, the Cromwell/Bannockburn area for a little wine tasting. After driving about 25 minutes from Wanaka Haven, we stopped briefly at Aurum Wines and Wooing Tree Vineyard in Cromwell, sampling their pinot gris and pinot noir. Heading off of Route 6 to Bannockburn we found Mt. Difficulty Wines with its fabulous views and much more diverse selection. While I did their standard sampling, Jeane was able try a sampling of their sweeter Late Harvest wines. She found a riesling that she really liked and purchased a small bottle to drink after we made it to Te Anau. It would have been tempting to stick around for lunch at Mt. Difficulty but we needed to move on.


We drove for another half hour before we came to the AJ Hackett Kawarau Bungy Center and turned into its busy parking lot. This was a great opportunity to see some bungy jumpers in action and decide whether this was something I wanted to do on our final stop in Queenstown. After observing for a while, we got back in the car and headed towards Arrowtown, another 20 minutes away. In Arrowtown, we strolled up and down the main street, briefly checking out the various shops. Jeane noted that she needed more time here, but since we needed to keep moving I promised we could return during our stay at Queenstown.


I had originally planned to make another stop at the nearby Coronet ski area for great views of Queenstown, but the sky was becoming overcast and I thought it would not be worth the detour. So we continued on to Te Anau, about 2-1/2 hours away. There was bridge construction outside of Queenstown which slowed us down a bit. Once we got past that, the highway followed along Lake Wakatipu for several kilometers, ensuring pleasant views. We arrived at Dunluce Bed & Breakfast in Te Anau in time to settle in a bit and get to Ristorante Pizzeria Paradiso Da Toni for our 7 PM reservation. This is basically a pizza place, but we weren’t looking for anything fancy that night. We ordered a Hawaiian Pizza to share and I ordered a 1/2 carafe of red wine, while Jeane ordered a lemonade. We skipped dessert as we knew there were yummy cookies to be had back at our B&B. The pizza was fine, certainly not the best we’ve had but not the worst either. Back at Dunluce, Jeane checked emails while I watched a movie before turning in.


Next: Day 9 Milford Sound Cruise
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Mar 1st, 2018, 12:38 PM
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Joining in....saving ideas for a future trip
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Mar 1st, 2018, 02:31 PM
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The Rocky Mountain Summit hike sounds perfect. Something for us to consider for our own time in Wanaka.
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Mar 2nd, 2018, 10:14 AM
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DAY 9 MILFORD SOUND CRUISE

We had scheduled the Southern Discovery Discover Nature cruise at 9:45 am. The cruise operator suggests arriving 45 minutes prior, so we had to depart our B&B by 7 am for the 2 hour drive to Milford Sound. While breakfast normally starts at 7, our hostess had some very tasty muffins and fruit ready to take with us as we headed out. Milford Sound is billed as one of the rainiest places on the planet and true to form, there was on and off light rain for most of the day. We scheduled an earlier cruise to avoid the tour buses from Queenstown and I believe that was a good strategy. Our plan was to do the Milford Road drive straight through in the morning and take our time returning to Te Anau. The drive to Milford Sound with no stops took us 1-3/4 hours and there were plenty of spaces available in the main parking lot when we arrived.


We boarded our relatively small ship a few minutes prior to departure and embarked on a 2-1/4 hour cruise that covered the length of the sound with a stop beneath a waterfall for those that wished to get soaked. While it did not rain for the entire cruise, it was chilly and mostly overcast. One of the benefits of the rainfall was the large number of waterfalls that spring up on all sides, making for a misty somewhat surreal scene. Toward the end of the cruise about half of the passengers were dropped off for kayaking and/or a visit to the underwater observatory while the remainder stayed on to return to the Visitors Center. We were glad we opted not to kayak, but heard that the younger folks seemed to enjoy it.


After we disembarked at the Visitors Center, I confirmed our Doubtful Sound cruise for the following day at the Real Journeys desk. It was raining fairly heavily as we set out on Milford Road again and I regretted that we would not be doing any hiking that afternoon. Waterfalls were everywhere as we drove down the road - a rather breathtaking sight. We had a short but worthwhile stop at The Chasm to see the swirling waters and sculpted shapes of the rocks there on a 10 minute walk from its parking area. For the remainder of the trip back to Te Anau, we noted the many tour buses heading in the opposite direction and admired the scenery all around us.


Our hosts had recommended the Fat Duck for dinner but were unable to reach the restaurant by phone to make a reservation. We figured that if we went early enough, they could probably squeeze us in. So we arrived at 5:45 and they were indeed able to take us right away. We split a tasty and satisfying order of fish and chips and downed it with a local beer and a lemonade.


DAY 10 DOUBTFUL SOUND CRUISE

We awoke the next day to partly sunny and cool weather. The first leg of our Real Journeys Doubtful Sound cruise was scheduled to depart at 8 am (the earlier of two cruises offered), so we had time for a quick breakfast. Like other places we stayed at on our trip, we were offered a hot entree along with some cold choices. Donluce was the only place though to provide awesome fresh baked homemade muffins each morning. It was a 20 minute drive to Manapouri, our departure point so we left our B&B at 7:20 to get there in time to check in.


The first leg of the Doubtful Sound cruise took us on a boat across Lake Manapouri where we were met by several coaches which took us on the second leg on a seldom used road across Wilmot Pass to the ship for the actual cruise. The scenery during the Lake Manapouri cruise was pretty, but not spectacular. On the coach ride our bus driver provided an interesting nature commentary about the area. The ship that took us on Doubtful Sound was sleek and modern. We noted that unlike our cruise on the previous day, the inside cabin was warm and comfortable. Outside it was windy and cool, although it would get warmer as the cruise progressed.


We were on the sound for about 3 hours. Because the sun was shining, the water was a clear blue. Because of the significant rains the night before, there were many waterfalls. We had a very clear sighting of a herd of seals sunning themselves on some rocks. At one point in the cruise, the crew instructed us all to be quiet while they shut down the ship’s engines and generator. For about five minutes the dead silence on board allowed us to hear the actual natural sounds of this remote and distant place. It was a special moment.


Because we chose the earlier departure, we were able to return to Te Anau by about 4 pm to do some packing and relax before dinner. We had a 6 pm reservation at the Redcliff where we were seated in a comfortable covered outdoor section of this fairly large restaurant. Jeane and I each ordered a salad and then split an order of the Fiordland Wild Venison, which I enjoyed with a wonderful glass of Malbec. This was a delicious meal with great service and a pleasant atmosphere.


Next: Day 11 On to Queenstown
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Mar 2nd, 2018, 11:54 AM
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I'm continuing to very much enjoy your report. Did you have a preference between Milford and Doubtful? I'm currently thinking about a day cruise of Milford Sound like what you did and an overnight cruise on Doubtful Sound.
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Mar 2nd, 2018, 02:12 PM
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tp - Might be overdoing it to do both. We benefitted from having one rainy day and one not which gave us some good perspective. But 3 days might be a bit much. Maybe just do the overnight cruise? I think being out there in the quiet at night would be quite an experience.
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Mar 2nd, 2018, 02:44 PM
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Hi Craig -

Ah yes, NZ biosecurity - we usually wear our hiking boots and have always gotten through with a quick inspection, although once they found and removed a small stone in the tread. If you ever visit Australia, you'll find similar restrictions - we always made a point of cleaning our hiking boots in NZ before returning to OZ and vice versa.

I had no idea the container mall had permanently closed. Perhaps a sign of post earthquake recovery?

Enjoying your report.
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Mar 3rd, 2018, 10:30 AM
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DAY 11 ON TO QUEENSTOWN

Our 3 night stay at Donluce Bed & Breakfast had been pleasant and comfortable. It had just 4 rooms, all with a wonderful view of the sheep and cattle farms across the road with Lake Te Anau and the mountains beyond. The drives into town for our dinners took about 5 minutes. On our last morning, we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast before setting out for Queenstown on a partly sunny day.


The drive to Queenstown is normally about 2-1/4 hours, but we had a slight delay when a sheep farmer's herd decided to race up the road towards us instead of crossing to the adjacent field. Naturally, we had to stop and take photos and soon others were doing the same, including a couple of tour buses. Jeane spoke to the farmer who said he owned 20,000 sheep and had never had this happen to him in the 6 years he’s been doing it. As we approached Queenstown with Lake Wakatipu on our left, the views were even more stunning than they had been when we drove the opposite direction 3 days previous.


We arrived in Queenstown at about 1 pm, expecting to be unable to check in to our next destination, Brown’s Boutique Hotel. Warren, the owner was ready for us however, and greeted us in the tiny parking area in front. This was an older property with lots of character. I could tell right away that Warren had a great sense of humor and strived to take good care of his guests. We were shown to our first floor room which was just above an outdoor patio and had views of the city and the mountains beyond. Lake Wakatipu could be seen from our deck.


Brown’s Boutique Hotel seemed out of place in a neighborhood that can only be described as “not pretty”. Its location, not far from the Gondola and Kiwi Birdlife Park was convenient however, and the downhill walk into town was easy and quick. After settling in for a while, Jeane and I decided to walk into town along the lakefront to the Queenstown Gardens. The Gardens seemed more recreational than botanical to us as they had tennis courts, a frisbee golf course and a walking path adjacent to the lake, which we took. We enjoyed the exercise however, although the wind had picked up and the skies had become overcast.


That night we had a combined celebration of Valentine’s Day and Jeane’s birthday at Amisfield Winery and Bistro. Our seating was for 5:15 and we had arranged for a taxi for the 15 to 20 drive there. On arrival we were seated outdoors at a table in an enclosed courtyard. The only dinner option was the “Trust the Chef” menu with or without accompanying wines. I chose to go with the wines and would share them with Jeane who started with a mixed drink and ordered a Late Harvest wine with her dessert. This was a wonderful multi-course meal with some very exotic flavors and ingredients. It was not too filling and every portion was carefully crafted and presented. The wines were all excellent and well-matched to each course. At the end of this highly recommended 3 hour experience, our taxi arrived to return us to Queenstown.


DAY 12 RETURN TO ARROWTOWN, BUNGY JUMPING AND KIWI BIRDLIFE PARK

As I have stated previously, we have had great breakfasts almost every day and today was no exception. I don’t believe I have ever previously enjoyed Eggs Benedict so many times on a two week trip. We had a good group for our morning meal and spent time chatting about where we were from and comparing notes about our travels in New Zealand. Afterward, we spent about 10 minutes carefully maneuvering our car out of the cramped parking lot, vowing to back into our space when we returned. We headed to Arrowtown, doing the 20 to 25 minute drive via the northern route rather than driving through town to routes 6A and 6.


It rained lightly in the morning and cleared up by early afternoon. Jeane spent 2 hours leisurely browsing the Arrowtown boutiques and picking up a couple additional items of clothing. When she was done, we headed south to the AJ Hackett Bungy Jump Center for my 1:45 jump, which I had booked the day before. We were about a 1/2 hour early, but I checked in when we arrived. They told me to come back and weigh in at 1:30 which I did after buying Jeane a cup of chai to keep her warm. Prior to the weigh in, I emptied my pockets completely and gave all of my stuff to Jeane to hold. At weigh in, I was asked if I had any health issues and since there were none, I was good to go. I was given a wristband that would identify me and another wrist device that communicates with the photo and video system.


There is no special way to dress for bungy jumping. I wore hiking pants, tennis shoes and a casual shirt. I am sure they would have let me jump naked if I had wanted to. I headed up to the bridge and checked in with the staff while Jeane went to find a good viewing point off to the side.


There is really not much preparation required. The staff ensured that I was relaxed and ready. They asked if I wanted to “dunk” (get wet) but I declined. They explained that jumping feet first was “less comfortable” than diving but I had no issues with going head first. I did not have to wait long before it was my turn. I was harnessed at the waist and at the ankles. Both harnesses are attached to the bungee cord but the waist harness is a safety backup. Jumpers alternate between two platforms on the bridge. After the other jumper had finished it was time for me to go. Because my ankles were bound together, I literally had to hop into position. The staff member who was assisting me told me to wave to the camera and wave to Jeane. Then on a count of 3, I was to jump. I heard “3 - 2 - 1” and without hesitation I launched into a perfectly executed swan dive. I admit I had the briefest moment of panic as my feet left the platform but then before I knew it, I was bouncing up and down with a big grin, waiting for the staff below to come in their raft retrieve me.


The hardest part of the jump was the long steep walk back up to the Bungy Center. Jeane congratulated me when I arrived and we went to pick up my photos and video. They turned out great and now I had a wonderful souvenir of my trip as well as the memories of the jump.


After returning to Queenstown, we headed over to the Kiwi Birdlife Park because Jeane wanted to see a kiwi while she was in New Zealand. Because kiwis are nocturnal, the Birdlife Park was the only way to do it. While the admission price was steep, the park overall was just okay. An audio tour is included but we thought the Conservation Show was best at bringing the park and its environmental mission to life.


Dinner that night was at Vknow, which was 5 minutes away from our hotel by car. We had a delicious meal there, splitting orders of the Thin Lizzy Salad and Fiordland Venison and finishing with a fabulous Apple and Blackberry Crumble. The wines by the glass were terrific. Afterward, we headed back to the hotel and watched a DVD until bedtime.


Next: Day 13 Dart River Jet Boat Tour and Day 14 Heading Home
Craig is offline  
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Mar 3rd, 2018, 10:50 AM
  #19
 
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Thanks for the feedback, Craig. Did you feel your trip was rushed given the multiple stops?
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Mar 3rd, 2018, 12:01 PM
  #20
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tp - No, our trip was not rushed at all. We had 3 nights Christchuch, 2 nights Mount Cook Village, 2 nights Wanaka, 3 nights Te Anau and 3 nights Queenstown. While we would have enjoyed an additional night in Wanaka, it is only because the bad weather in Mount Cook forced to stay there an additional 1/2 day to do the heli-hike, which meant we only had time for the Diamond Lake & Rocky Mountain hike in Wanaka.
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