Notices

NZ--The South Island in 15 Days (Winter)

Reply

Aug 25th, 2012, 06:41 AM
  #1
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 316
NZ--The South Island in 15 Days (Winter)

GENERAL: Here is our TR of a wonderful, albeit quick, trip to the South Island of New Zealand. I am posting this in a series of 4 postings below so as not to bog down the system. These are actually taken from my DH's travel blog, and I will start each section with a link to his actual blog. You can click on those links to also see the pics. that accompany each section.

Prior to each one, I'll give you a bit of my commentary and specifics (in parentheses) so you can more easily follow our comings and goings.

To start off, my DH had to go to Tonga on a business trip which entailed flying in/out of Auckland. So I met up with him as he came back through Auckland, and we spent 15 days driving around the South Island.

Of note is that this is a trip report for the winter. Many of the things we did we determined by, and colored by, the weather. I can't comment on any of these places as summer destinations. In many cases we had the luxury of "having the country to ourselves". This included restaurants, hiking trails, beaches, etc. We had very good rain gear, and that make a difference in our ability to remain active.

Also of note, I must thank the many Fodor's contributors who gave me much valuable input into planning our trip. I am so appreciative of the great advice and specific information that made our trip great.

"No Worries"
(Day 1-4. Auckland to Queenstown to Wanaka to the Otago Peninsula (Dunedin).

We flew from Auckland to Queenstown, and rented a car from Eurocar at the airport . They had the least expensive rate on-line. Car was fine, no problems whatsoever. Declined their insurance, and paid with a Chase Visa card that covered car rental insurance in NZ. I confirmed that prior to leaving and found that not all credit cards cover NZ.)


“No worries…”
Posted on August 11, 2012
http://www.choosewhatworks.com/blog/?p=1078

Q. – What happened to California in the early 1920’s?
A. – It relocated to New Zealand.

The South Island of New Zealand is a remarkably varied landscape of spectacular vistas, unique fowl and flora, and disarmingly friendly people (even for a curmudgeon like me).
Lisa and I were reunited like rescued puppies in Auckland (Vancouver’s “city double”) and had a farewell dinner with our Japanese colleagues –heartfelt “thank yous” and authentic NZ fare..

And while we’re on the subject of food….not surprisingly I’ve had the best lamb of my young life (actually it was the lamb’s young life), flavorful venison (antelope farming abounds), rich seafood chowders, hearty breads, very fresh eggs, bacon, and mushrooms, and the best Indian food in all of the Occident. And everyone is justifiably very proud of the quality of local coffees.

A couple of pub meals (the “only show in town” in our last port o’ call) were noteworthy for the character of the establishment, rather than culinary memories, although the volume of the food was something to behold. Hungry ‘ol sheep ranchers washed down the “pork bellies with pumpkin mash” with pitchers of the local amber brew.

Lisa, with the aid of TripAdvisor’s cognoscenti, organized a serpentine tour of interesting B&B’s in the South Island. It is winter here (45-60F, overcast days, and long nights) so the design specifications were to avoid the stormy West Coast and find charming communities that offer sights and outdoors delights fitting the season.
Our flight from Auckland into Queenstown was breathtaking (not to mention being almost cancelled due to the hundred-year awaking of the Tongariro volcano). The approach into Queenstown Airport, between snowy mountain ranges and alpine valleys, deserves an aviation merit badge.

Similar to Aspen, Queenstown is a prosperous and energetic ski/mountain resort situated along a beautiful lake and rimmed by dramatic icy slopes. We instantly settled in for lunch of scrambled eggs and the thickest slice of buttered whole grain toast at a cozy coffee house. We knew we were in good hands when our expressed appreciation to the server was met with a melodious “no worries”.

After a stroll around town, we were off for a 90-minute drive to Lake Wanaka. We did allow one quick, look-see at the World Home of Bungee jumping. Not to worry – I would rather be par-boiled than attempt that internal-organ-crushing leap.

Our accommodation at The Aspiring Lofts, run by Don and Lorraine, was a comfy surprise with modern and tasteful finishes (heated floors, recessed lighting, good wi-fi, and perfect feng shui (they spent 6 years teaching in Hong Kong). Our hosts cooked fabulous breakfasts (fresh golden kiwis, creamy eggs with cheese, mushrooms, homemade muesli and yogurt), recommended good restaurants, and gave us a valuable orientation to the high country – fruit orchards, former Gold Rush digs, running and biking trails.

The highpoint of our stay, even whilst (using local grammar) a wee bit wet, was three hours of mountain biking around the lake on well-groomed gravel trails.

After 2 cozy nights, wonderful dinners, and our biological reset, we set off across high mountain plains populated by few people and countess freshly shorn sheep. We stopped for a picnic lunch in the town of Ranfurly, frozen in 1920. It consisted of about 3 square blocks which we circled repeatedly, hypnotized by the unassuming charm of the tiny houses, honest stores, and art deco civic buildings (imagine: The Last Picture Show).
Our destination was the tiny bayside hamlet of Portobello on the Otago Peninsula just outside of the college town of Dunedin. Our nesting spot this time was the Yellow House B&B, hosted by Jan and Mike.

This is the classic Maine or Puget Sound setting for a murder mystery, where any one of the 20 or so townspeople (pub tender, provisions shop keeper, lambing station rancher) could be active suspects despite their warm and friendly appearance. Misty clouds, exotic sea birds (black swans, cormorants, yellow-eyed penguins) completed the heightened sense of Hitchcock déjà-vu. Day One, we’re visitors from a long way off; Day Two, we’re natives – now that’s worth investigating!

We broke out our God-sent hiking poles and Gore-Tex boots and embarked on spectacular hikes to entirely secluded and alive destinations: yesterday to Allen’s Beach where we encountered sleeping sea lions who were camouflaged in the dunes (one gave Lisa a nasty fright with a hissy-fit when she unwittingly walked past them); today we marched to the heights of The Chasm and Lover’s Leap where we snaked through sheep stations to the top of insane mountain precipices that glared out over the cold Pacific waters.

Pushing north along the Coast today to our next retreat…”no worries.”
LisaG is offline  
Reply With Quote
Aug 25th, 2012, 06:48 AM
  #2
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 316
"Seeking the Heart of New Zealand."

(Day 5-9. Otago Peninsula (Dunedin) to Oamaru to Akaroa. With a 1-night stay in a motel outside of Christchurch as the road to AKaroa was flooded out!)



Seeking the heart of NZ
Posted on August 16, 2012

http://www.choosewhatworks.com/blog/?p=1158

Best estimates say that 14 inches of rain fell in the last three days here at Robinson’s Bay on the Banks Peninsula. We were turned back 2 days ago at the town of Little River by flooding and “slips,” dozens of mudslides and fallen trees that tormented our quest.

We retreated to the relative safety of Addington near Christchurch where we found a motel, did laundry, and comforted ourselves with steaming Chinese food – corn and chicken soup, salt and pepper prawns in shells, and cashew chicken – some things require no cultural translation. We also made a wind-whipped infiltration into desolated Christchurch City Centre and saw the devastation and re-building efforts from the catastrophic earthquake 2 years ago.

The weather lightened just enough the next morning to allow our passage through a waterlogged ribbon of highway that mimics Sonoma-Marin. Our destination was The Olive Grove, a restored farmhouse B&B near the former French colony of Akaroa.

Annette and Chris, who lovingly tend to 1000 olive trees producing award winning oil and fruit, are our hosts. Given our military-level provisioning, Lisa and I broke out parkas, rain pants, and Goretex boots and tested the drenching “sou’ wester.” Let’s just say the unrelenting rain and wind made a fair contest and, at least in my case, soaked my Patagonia “water repellent” shell. Our spirits, however, remain un-dampened.

Annette told us that her great, great grandfather, a whaler from England landed at this Bay in 1840, and was part of the community that thwarted France’s attempt to claim New Zealand. (break out your old DVD of The Piano, if you want the essence of the area).

The pubs and bistros in the postcard town of Akaroa, serve up fresh fish platters, creamy local tap beers, and large cups of foamy “flat white” coffee, that fortify us from winter’s dark chill.

The elements have taken a toll on my photo equipment: one camera “bit the dust” in Tonga, my back-up unit jammed in the wetness here, and I was lucky to find a Nikon point and shoot, at the local chemist – the only camera for sale for 100 km. – dedication to my readers is fathomless.

Before we arrived on this Peninsula, we spent 2 days in Oamaru, a Victorian port about 2.5 hours North of Dunedin. This Scottish inspired town looks transplanted intact from Glasgow. It was here, one stormy night in 1912 that survivors of Scott’s disastrous attempt to reach the South Pole, landed (traveling 2000 miles from Antarctica,) to telegraph the solemn news to the world.

It was here that the weather turned somber for us, enforcing our indoor activities at the 1930’s Oasis on Orwell, a cozy B&B run by 2 warmhearted English expats, Dave and Liz. They have recently retired from their tomato-growing business near Auckland to run this guesthouse. We sipped hot Earl Grey, delighted in Liz’s home-made sweets, and caught up on the Olympic summaries, presented through NZ sensibilities (Gold in Women’s 200m. kayak!)

The thrill of our stay was the beach boulders at Moeraki with the marine perfume of low tide, and catching a black misty glimpse of tiny blue penguins as they squealed and waddled under smashing surf at Oamaru’s breakwaters.
LisaG is offline  
Reply With Quote
Aug 25th, 2012, 06:52 AM
  #3
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 316
"Beneath the Southern Cross"

(Day 10-12. Akaroa to Kaikoura)


Beneath the Southern Cross
Posted on August 19, 2012

http://www.choosewhatworks.com/blog/?p=1211

“I see my light come shining, from the West unto the East,
any day now, any day now…I shall be released.”

100.3 FM in Kaikoura, is one of the best radio stations in the world. “DJ’ed by volunteers…less lip and more music, upsetting people and offering opportunities to experience radio out of the blue.”

Thus the soundtrack was established for our astonishing wanderings around Kaikoura as we tuned into the waves and wonders of this finger into the Pacific.

Waves on The Esplanade, an immaculate condo, was our unlikely quarters here on the wild Canterbury coast. (yes, those snowy mountains and crystal waters were our wake-up vista while enjoying toast, tea and jam).

We set off by foot and bike to costal tracks that trace the volcanic cliffs and velvet meadows of the peninsula. An immense colony of sleepy fur seals has designated the sunny trailhead as snooze central.

Low tide afforded us the thrill of walking out among the tide pools on slippery volcanic rocks to get personal with preening males who slithered ashore. The crashing surf, bracing breeze, and other-worldly backdrop of pure white peaks stirred Lisa to declare this place among the most beautiful that we’ve seen.

Just 15 km. north of town is one of the great hidden attractions of this majestic island. Accessed by an enchanting path set back about 400 yards from the ocean, roughly 60 seal pups frolic in chilly pools at the base of a fresh waterfall, This is the colony’s “daycare center” where mother seals leave the pups to socialize while hunting for food during the day.

One of God’s creatures that has worn out its welcome in this corner of paradise is the pesky possum (local variety). 30 million of the varmints (7 per person) have overrun the joint since being introduced in 1837 to start an ill-conceived fur industry. With no natural predators, they wreak havoc with regional ecosystems and ranchers are not shy about hanging ‘em out to dry.

The town of Kaikoura (pop. 2100) has the feel of a backwater surfer-backpacker refuge – touches of art-deco, faux Trader Vic’s, and a hint of the Isle of Skye leave room for everyone to commune with their respective Natures.
LisaG is offline  
Reply With Quote
Aug 25th, 2012, 06:59 AM
  #4
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 316
"Marlborough Country"

(Day 13-15. Kaikoura to Renwick (near Blenheim). A spectacular way to end our trip. Several days of biking through vineyards. Returned car at Blenheim airport (actually dropped keys in a box), then flew to Auckland and then home to SFO).


Marlborough Country
Posted on August 23, 2012

http://www.choosewhatworks.com/blog/?p=1256

Driving in New Zealand is quite civilized, once you get past the annoying reflex of entering traffic lanes from the right side (American vs. UK). A couple of oncoming tractor-trailers seemed to hasten my learning curve.

Our rental ride is a compact Holden – GM’s Australian franchise, sold in NZ – that has served us well in some challenging rain and gales. Distances between settlements on the South Island are impressive, even on Highway 1, the well paved main artery (2 narrow lanes) running North-South. It is routine not to see another vehicle for miles, and many of those are semis with double trailers that blow by close enough to re-focus my sensibilities on long-term survival.

One unforgettable stretch of highway spanning a river delta was a half-mile long, one-lane bridge. The concept in navigating this test of manhood is to evaluate if you have enough time to cover the distance across the bridge before oncoming traffic takes the initiative. Luckily, we sped across like wombats before encountering a cattle rig.

Our final destination on this trip is the beautiful Marlborough wine-producing region on the north end of the Island. It bares similarities to Napa-Sonoma, accommodating both boutique labels from homestead growers, as well as large industrial vintners.

Our hosts Jo and Steve pamper visitors at their #1 rated (TripAdvisor) B&B, Hillsfield House, situated centrally to dozens of wineries. Their pets, four alpaca, 3 miniature horses, and a black cat extend a rural character to their lovely Chateau-styled property.

I tried to make friends with one fuzzy alpaca by breathing, nose to nose, as instructed. With no foreshadowing, my reward was to be summarily spit upon. Imagine the powerful burst of compressed air you get at the optometrist to check out impending glaucoma. I took an oath in that moment to specify pure merino wool for my future knitwear requirements.

The bicycles they provide allowed us to tour the region for 3 days through light rain and shine, and gain a first hand feel for the territory just awakening to spring: perfectly manicured vines, newborn lambs and their mothers grazing in between the endless plantings, drop-ins to “cellar doors” (tasting rooms) for samplings of Sauvignon Blanc and spicy olive oil with brown bread, and comfy lunches served at some of the estates.

One image, not to be forgotten, was a reed thin rancher driving slowing down a side road in his pick-up truck corralling 150 newly shorn sheep back to their pasture. With his golden-haired toddler sleeping in the back seat, and his two shepherd dogs running alongside, he effortlessly whistled commands the dogs executed with gleeful precision – all this, while he and I chatted about the clearing weather and how our visit to the valley was going, as I trailed on my bike snapping photos. After the task was complete, the dogs happily wiggled on their backs in the cool wet grass, signifying pride in their craft.

Roaming the quiet rustic lanes allowed Lisa and I to drink in the scents, the symphony of birds, and the peace of the region – a perfect conclusion to invigorating discovery in New Zealand.
LisaG is offline  
Reply With Quote
Aug 25th, 2012, 07:00 AM
  #5
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 316
The End!

That's the end of this Trip Report. I hope you enjoy it, and happy travels to all of you.

LisaG
LisaG is offline  
Reply With Quote
Aug 25th, 2012, 01:49 PM
  #6
 
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 11,395
That was fabulous! Thanks so much for posting.

Lee Ann
ElendilPickle is offline  
Reply With Quote
Aug 25th, 2012, 03:05 PM
  #7
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Posts: 438
Great commentary of your trip, Lisa, thanks. Loved the photo of the seals, seagull and what looks like a swan's neck. I find the seals around Kaikoura absolutely fascinating (judging by the 100s of photos I take every time we go there!)
Never before seen a photo of a possum in such an interesting pose!!
dottyp is offline  
Reply With Quote
Aug 25th, 2012, 04:45 PM
  #8
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 13,684
Thoroughly enjoying this Lisa and so glad you got to see the seal pups at Oahu waterfalls - very cool!

And, you've reminded me about my own half written winter SI trip report that I need to finish off and post.
Melnq8 is online now  
Reply With Quote
Aug 25th, 2012, 04:51 PM
  #9
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 13,684


Where was that? Little India? Bombay Palace?
Melnq8 is online now  
Reply With Quote
Aug 25th, 2012, 05:47 PM
  #10
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 316
Melnq8,

Thanks so much for encouragement....I'm glad you're enjoying this with us!

The best Indian food we had was in Wanaka at The Spice Room. It was a cold, rainy night (uh oh, that sounds like the beginning of the world's worst novel) and we sat by the fire and had really delicious food. Each dish had its own unique flavors. So many times Indian food has a "synthesized" flavor from the kitchen....that is, every dish seems to taste similar.

Hope that helps!

Lisa
LisaG is offline  
Reply With Quote
Aug 25th, 2012, 08:00 PM
  #11
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 13,684
Yep, I'm all too familiar with The Spice Room in Wanaka. They have on in QT now too.
Melnq8 is online now  
Reply With Quote
Aug 25th, 2012, 08:15 PM
  #12
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 13,684
Just looked at your photos - I have a similiar bungy loo shot! And you went to some of my favorite Marlborough wineries. Good on ya, looks like you had a fabulous time.
Melnq8 is online now  
Reply With Quote
Aug 25th, 2012, 10:49 PM
  #13
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 316
Melnq8,

Yes, we had a fabulous time! Seal pups, chowder, great hikes, wonderful wine, sunny days for bike riding----what more do you need?

By the way, much of your advice made our planning easier. Thanks for that!

Lisa
LisaG is offline  
Reply With Quote
Aug 25th, 2012, 10:58 PM
  #14
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 13,684
No worries, glad to have been of help.
Melnq8 is online now  
Reply With Quote
Aug 25th, 2012, 11:22 PM
  #15
 
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 1,382
that was one splendid trip report

thank you !

we are going in november and have hired a campervan but nonetheless i have saved your report and will refer to it closer to the time of our departure

your efforts to capture your experience in text are really appreciated
lanejohann is offline  
Reply With Quote
Aug 26th, 2012, 09:42 AM
  #16
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 316
lanejohann, ElendilPickle, Melnq8, and dottyp,

I will pass those comments along to my husband whose blog it is! He'll be very appreciative. I used to winge a bit when he took so many pictures during the day and fiddled with the technology to get his blog to work. But he's been getting very expert at the editing and posting.

And taking pictures while driving! I shouldn't have said that! On average, he takes about 400 photos a day when we're on vacation (only a very few out the window).

Lisa
LisaG is offline  
Reply With Quote
Aug 26th, 2012, 04:05 PM
  #17
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 13,684
Oh no, a drive by tourist!
Melnq8 is online now  
Reply With Quote
Aug 29th, 2012, 07:28 PM
  #18
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 1,995
Very well written indeed. Thankyou for a very professional blog and report. I simply loved NZ especially the South Island and would go back in a flash if it were not so far!
taconictraveler is offline  
Reply With Quote
Aug 29th, 2012, 09:46 PM
  #19
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 316
Thanks taconictraveler!

It was a pleasure to help him write it (I helped just a little!).

Hope you get back to NZ, and to Italy!

LisaG
LisaG is offline  
Reply With Quote
Sep 4th, 2012, 11:15 AM
  #20
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 16,104
Yay a new trip report!

I like your comparisons to other places.

I agree that parts of NZ are like California used to be.

Long long ago I stayed at Aspiring Lofts, great place.
mlgb is offline  
Reply With Quote
 



Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On



All times are GMT -8. The time now is 05:47 PM.