Archive for December, 2012

Day 38 – Omarama/Christchurch

Posted: December 9, 2012 in Travel

Winding down now, thinking of home. A pleasant enough journey, stopping to view Mount Cook and various other scenic spots, a good lunch in a quaint town called Geraldine and then a late afternoon arrival back in Christchurch. We’ve all had enough of coaches for a while.

Day 37 – Queenstown/Omarara

Posted: December 8, 2012 in Travel

We departed at a civilised hour and very soon made a 90 minute stop in Arrowtown, a pretty little town full of upmarket shops, exactly the sort of place I didn’t need to be let loose in with a credit card on my Birthday. Anyway, I treated myself to two possum/merino jumpers, nice mementos of New Zealand. Then onto the World’s first bunji jump site; apparently Stephen Fry jumped here recently, but I wasn’t tempted. After a couple more unmemorable stops, we arrived in the early afternoon in Omarama, a one horse town where there is absolutely nothing to see or do, so I’ve got no idea why we are here. I’m having a celebratory dinner and Champagne this evening with four nice people. After that, I think I want to go home.

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Day 36 – Queenstown

Posted: December 7, 2012 in Travel

Just as yesterday, we rose early to find it raining, but this time we were given the all clear to leave for Milford Sound. As the crow flies, it is only a short distance from Queenstown, but the crow can fly over the intervening mountain range, whilst the road around it takes almost four hours to drive. After an hour or so, the rain eased and the clouds started to break, giving us near perfect weather for the cruise through the Sound (technically a fiord, similar to the Norwegian ones but spelled slightly differently) as far as the Tasman Sea. More sedate than yesterday, but glorious to behold! We got back to the hotel just before 8.00pm.

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Day 35 – Queenstown

Posted: December 6, 2012 in Travel

Today’s planned all-day trip to Milford Sound was cancelled due to rocks on the road, so we got up at 6.00am for nothing. For the first part of the morning, I was feeling rather morose because the NZ leg of the holiday seemed to be falling apart; all that remained now would be the two day trek back to Christchurch and then home. After an exhausting few weeks, I now felt as if I was running on empty and badly in need of a stimulus. Then the stimulus duly came. We were able to bring forward an excursion to the Dart River valley for what I thought was to be a leisurely cruise to see the locations used in the LOTR films and “The Hobbit” which was shooting here just a few months ago. If I had even the slightest understanding of what was actually involved, I am sure that I would have opted out, but ignorance is bliss and it turned out to be an experience that I would not have missed for anything. We started with what I can only describe as a 90 minute theme park ride, only for real – a jet boat moving at breakneck speed up the river, weaving in an out of narrow spaces between huge rocks, sand banks and various debris, spinning full circles and occasionally stopping to allow us to appreciate fully the spectacular scenery of steep mountains covered with thick greenery and capped with snow, cascading waterfalls and huge jade rocks. We emerged dizzy to embark on a marvellous escorted walk through the rain forest. Wow! After such an unpromising beginning, what a day!

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Day 34 – Fox Glacier/Queenstown

Posted: December 5, 2012 in Travel

I guess that, in a holiday of over 5 weeks, something is bound to be lost because of bad weather. It poured all night and all morning, so no helicopter ride to the Glacier and, for the first part of our journey over mountains and through valleys, the views were spoilt. Miraculously at lunchtime, the skies cleared and the remainder of the trip through countryside resembling the Lake District was glorious. We are now firmly in “Lord of the Rings” country. We arrived at the hotel in Queenstown in the late afternoon and I have a room with a balcony and a wonderful view over the lake, a perfect base for the next 3 nights.

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Day 33 – Christchurch/Fox Glacier

Posted: December 4, 2012 in Travel

A day of breathtaking scenery. We took the 8.15 Trans-Alpine Express train from Christchurch to Arthur’s Pass and then re-boarded the coach for the remainder of the journey to the Tasman Sea coast and then down to Fox Glacier. We had been doe to take a helicopter flight to fly over and land on the Glacier, but low cloud prevented this and we were only able to see the bottom of the Glacier from below. We will have another chance to do the flight tomorrow.

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Day 32 – Blenheim/Christchurch

Posted: December 3, 2012 in Travel

A touring holiday inevitably means travelling days and this was one of them. Following the Pacific coastal road for part of the way but also cutting inland through some breathtaking mountain scenery, the journey took around 7 hours, including 3 stops for food/drinks. This was a major trunk road, but just a single lane in either direction, not exactly the M1, but it didn’t need to be as traffic was remarkably sparse. We did a short coach tour around the City, which was rather upsetting; I don’t think any of us had fully appreciated just how devastating the earthquake (or to be exact the second aftershock in Feb 2011) had been. The centre around Cathedral Square is still completely cordoned off and is known as “the red zone”, some buildings had just facades with nothing behind them, a church had its steeple removed and placed oddly in front of the rest of the building, there were many new car parks where buildings had once stood and, generally the place had the feel of a huge construction site. Very unsettling, but our stay here is cut short and we leave first thing in the morning.

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