Archive | August 2012

New Zealand day 5…walking around Queenstown

The photo above is one of my favourite photos of my whole tour.

When I got off the TSS Earnslaw I walked around to the Queenstown Gardens.  I started walking along the gravel path on the lake front.  You can see across to the main part of town.  It’s a popular walk; I past a lot of people. The main part of the gardens are higher than the path around the lake.  I walked up to the top and got a surprise.  Whereas the lower path was more rustic, the higher sections are very manicured.  I loved the selection of plants and the sculptures up there.  At the exit I found a metal sculpture of a silver fern.  It was beautiful.

 

By this time I was getting tired so I walked back to the cafe and bought a hot chocolate then went to bus stop outside the visitor centre.  I had to wait for what seemed like ages for the next bus.  It eventually arrived and I got back to the hotel at around 4pm.  I sat on the bed and looked out the window.   The view was so beautiful.  The water was so blue and contrasted with the dryness of the mountains.  The view was framed beautifully by the window frame.  I had about an hour or a little longer before I had to get ready for our night out.  We were going up to Bob’s Peak to the Skyline restaurant for dinner and to see the Kiwi Haka Show.  I had never seen a Haka before so was really looking forward to it.

New Zealand…day 5 – in and around Queenstown

I woke up feeling nice and refreshed, knowing I had the whole day to myself.  I had put my name down to do a day tour but, as I was the only one who wanted to do it, it got cancelled.  My parents have been to Queenstown and told me about some things I could do in and around the town.

After breakfast I caught the bus down the hill into the main area of town.  This is where you find the bars, cafes and tourist attractions.  First stop was the Visitor Centre to book my ticket for the steamship TSS Earnslaw cruise to Walter Peak Farm http://www.realjourneys.co.nz/Main/TSSEarnslaw/.  The cruise is a 1.5hr return journey to Walter Peak Farm.  The Earnslaw turns 100 in October 2012 and it will hold a week of celebrations in that month.  It is known as ‘the lady on the lake’. It was slightly windy on land which translated into a very windy day on the steamship.  It was nice and sunny though so I really enjoyed the trip to the farm.  The view of the mountains is a lot different to when you see them on land.  When I’m on a boat or ship I love being outdoors.  For one, you get the best photos and you get the whole experience, including the wind blowing through your hair.

I stayed on board once we reached Walter Peak Farm.  There are 3 levels to this cruise.  One is the cruise I did where we just cruise there then come back, the second is where you can get off the ship and walk around and the third is take part in a bbq lunch and a tour of the farm.  I had other things to do so just did the basic cruise.

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New Zealand….day 4 arriving in Queenstown

After travelling for around 200kms in 8 hours we finally arrived in Queenstown and went straight to our hotel.   I fell in love with Queenstown the moment we drove in to the town.  The streets have a great feeling.  I don’t know if it was the shops, cafes or the views.  Actually it was probably the views.  There are gigantic mountains surrounding the town that is built on the banks of Lake Wakatipu.  When driving up Stanley St we were heading straight for Bob’s Peak.  Sitting atop Bob’s Peak is the Skyline Restaurant where we would be going for dinner tomorrow night.

We drove through the town and up the steep hill where the views became even more spectacular.  Our hotel was the Mercure Queenstown Resort.  By this time it was around 6.30pm.  We checked in and went to our rooms.  I opened my room and thought WOW, the room was large and spacious.  I was so glad I was staying here for two nights.  When I put my cases down I went to the window and  had another WOW moment.  The view over Lake Wakitpu to The Remarkables was amazing.  The sun was setting across the top of the mountains and the colours were magnificent.

Carol, Bec, Brad and I met for dinner.  Once again we were overlooking Lake Wakatipu.  It seems that you get the most amazing view from most rooms, bars and restaurants in the hotel.  After that I went to my room and relaxed and watched tv.  It was hard to believe this was only the second day of the tour.  We had travelled so far and seen so much.

New Zealand…day 4 Arrowtown

 

After our short stop at Lake Wanaka which was really just to take photos we headed for Arrowtown.  We made just one more stop at a farm shop.  They have a huge array of fruit and vegies that I believe were grown on the farm.   We all stocked up on them because we hadn’t had access to any fresh fruits and vegies since the tour started.  I bought stone fruit and strawberries.

We arrived in Arrowtown at around 5.15pm and were only given 45 mins to walk around the town.  Our first reaction is that there wasn’t much to see, just the main street.  I’ve since researched the town and realised how big it is and how much there is to do.  I want to go back one day.

The town is an old gold-mining town from and in the 1860’s was a rich source of gold.  The buildings in the main street (the only part of town we really got to see) have been kept intact and transformed into the shops, some of which reflect their heritage.  There is a lolly shop, cafes, an old post office, the Coachman’s Hall and other buildings.  The Remarkable Sweet Shop was my favourite because they sold freshly made fudge.  I discovered a flavour I’d never tried before: Lemon Meringue Pie fudge.  I’d never heard of it but a few fudge experts ie friends have told me that it’s not a new flavour.  Since then I’ve tried it whenever I see it and it’s always delicious.

Unfortunately some of the shops/cafes had already closed.  We were lucky we got to the Sweet Shop when we did because they were about to close but stayed open a little longer.  After a quick lap of the main street I headed back to the coach to continue our drive to Queenstown for the first of our two nights there.  It was our only two night stay so it was going to be great not having to pack up tomorrow to move to our next destination.

 

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Makarora and Lake Wanaka

When you are driving through Haast you are driving through and beside steep mountains and rainforests. As you get closer to Makarora and Lake Wanaka you see the land begin to flatten out and get a bit browner.  The trees are also different as you move out of the rainforest.   We stopped at Makarora Country Cafe for lunch.  It’s a grand name for what is really just a roadhouse but it’s well-appointed and has a friendly atmosphere and staff.  We were finding we had to queue up everywhere we go which was getting a bit annoying but was something we would have to get used to.  When I got to the counter I was disappointed to find there were lots of pre-made sandwiches.  I hate pre-made sandwiches.  I decided to ask if they sold dim sims.  The man behind the counter laughed at me and said “you can only get them in a Chinese restaurant”  It was my turn to laugh at him.  I told him that at home we can buy them at this sort of place.  I suggested he might like to sell them.  I’m sure he would find they were a best seller, especially amongst Aussie visitors.I bought a pie and sat down with Carol, Bec and Brad to eat it.  There is a beautiful brand of ice cream that is sold by the scoop in cafes.  We tried it and loved it.  Across the road, sheep and deer were roaming a paddock.  It was the first time we’d seen deer.  Venison is a popular meat on menus in NZ.

From Makarora we drove to Lake Wanaka.  We were only stopping briefly here but it is a beautiful lake with more spectacular scenery.  Families come from miles to stay here, sometimes only a few miles in fact.  Clarke told us that people that live in Queenstown often come to stay here just to escape their busy home town.   You can just relax or join in some of the more adventurous activities such as water-skiing, snow boarding, mountain biking.

lake wanaka

 

New Zealand…day 4 Haast

Haast has some of the most beautiful countryside I’ve seen.  And that’s saying something for New Zealand.  It’s on the west coast with a lot of the area being completely inaccessible.  In fact our tour guide told us that when planes crash (and unfortunately there have been a few) the plane is often never sighted again.  The forest is so dense.  The population of the area is also very low.  Our first stop in Haast was where the ‘gentle’ jet boat cruise was going to start.  Our guide had warned us that Queenstown (where we were going that night) is very popular in Summer so he couldn’t guarantee we would be able to go on the more adventurous jet boat rides.  He suggested we go on this one instead.  I wasn’t interested but a lot of people on our bus were, including some of the older people on the tour because it was considered safer than some of the other similar cruises.

The office of the company is located just off the side of the road and beside the longest single lane bridge in New Zealand.  We didn’t realise it at the time but we were dropping those people off then going to the Haast Visitor Centre then on to pick them up at their destination.

one of the many single-lane bridges in NZ, this one is so long there are bays on the sides where you can allow cars to pass you if you don’t have right of way

area surrounding the Haast Visitor Centre…..this was once just land, now it’s been turned into beautiful wetlands

New Zealand day 4….Knights Point

We got off to a very late start on day 4.  The people who had booked their joy flights over the the glaciers were waiting to hear if they would go ahead.  The weather was constantly changing so the decision of whether the pilots would fly was also changing .  Eventually they all went up and loved every minute of it.  I didn’t go on a flight but they certainly saw some awesome sights.  They were able to land on Fox Glacier and walk around briefly.

Once we left we drove for about an hour to Knights Point.  It’s a popular hangout and breeding area for New Zealand Fur Seals.  Unfortunately they are located off land so we couldn’t see them off the rocks.  I’ve since found out that they also play in the sand on the beach.   The area is very beautiful, being on the west and wild coast.  We were jokingly told we would have been able to see Australia if it hadn’t been so cloudy.

 

 

Winter is coming to an end

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I hate winter. There. I’ve said it. A lot of my friends say they love this time of year because they can put more clothes on to warm up. That’s not true for me. No matter how many layers I put on I never feel warm enough.

The only good thing about winter is it’s footy season. The next best thing is that these trees start to bloom. I know that the end of winter is near. First of all there is a flush of pink or white flowers followed by leaves. They (along with wattle trees) are my favourite. They are bright and colourful and very welcome.

Unfortunately I can’t remember what they are called so if you know please add a comment to let me know.

New Zealand day 3: Staying at Fox Glacier

fox glacier

We arrived at our hotel at around 5.30pm.  It had been a long day, particularly as I haven’t done a tour of this type since I was at school.   As was to happen at all of our acommodation on the tour, the manager or receptionist came onto the coach to give us our room keys.  That saved us all from having to queue up at reception.  I also realised our bags would be taken to, and picked up from, our rooms each night and morning.   I had never had that happen before and it was something I was going to enjoy.

My room was the size of a shoebox and tucked away in a maze of rooms.  It was clean and tidy though and had a spectacular view of the nearby mountains.

Soon after my bags arrived I went down to dinner in the hotel restaurant.  We were able to choose from a limited three course menu.  As it was the second night in a row we’d been offered this I thought it be normal.  Sadly it wasn’t to be.

Salmon entree

triple choc cake for dessert

New Zealand Day 3: Fox Glacier

Our final stop of the day before going to our hotel was Fox Glacier.  It’s not as well known as it’s neighbour Franz Josef Glacier but is more accessible from the road.  A  lot of people hike the 6km from the town of Fox Glacier to the glacier.  We drove through the town through light, misty rain. By the time we got to the glacier the conditions had worsened.  In what I was learning is one of the drawbacks of coach-touring, we were only given 20 mins to walk to the edge of the glacier and back.  As I was the last person off the coach I didn’t have as long to get there so didn’t quite reach the edge.  Visibility was quite poor so the people that did get there said they couldn’t see much. 

Many of the  people on our tour booked in to do the helicopter flight over the glaciers but due to the weather, those flights were cancelled.  Although the forecast for the next day wasn’t much better the flights were tentatively booked for the next morning, even though we were scheduled to leave the town shortly after breakfast.

I was disappointed the weather wasn’t to our advantage as I have seen pictures and tv shows about the glaciers and was really looking forward to seeing them. 

 

New Zealand Day 3: Hokitika

Hokitka tiki jade jewellery

From Greymouth we drove 40km south to Hokitka.  Hokitka’s claim to fame is as a producer of jade jewellery.  The local stone is also called Pounamu.  It’s a stone I’ve loved for a long time.  My grandfather’s side of the family were all from New Zealand and on one of his return trips to NZ he bought me a tiki.  He said it was my good luck charm and I still have it to this day.  It holds great sentimental value to me.  I wanted to treat myself to some jade jewellery while I was there.  Unfortunately we were only given one hour to have some lunch.

We parked at the back of one of the jade shops so I quickly went into the shop; intent on buying jewellery before I went anywhere else.  I did a few laps of the large shop before going back to pick out what I wanted.  I gathered up the different pieces I wanted.  I couldn’t find the tiki necklaces so asked one of the staff.  She noticed the sapphire ring I was wearing and started asking me questions about it.  Apparently it was similar to what a colleague of hers was wearing.

After I picked out what I wanted I worked out I could afford all three pieces; 2 necklaces and a set of earrings because the exchange rate between the Australian and NZ dollars works to our advantage. Yay for me.

Having satisfied my need for jade jewellery I began a walk around town.  First stop was the tourist info centre to see what was in the town.  Not that I would be able to see much today but I’d love to come back one day.  I walked in to a cafe to buy a bottle of coke and the friendly man behind the counter asked if I was enjoying my tour.  I chatted with him for a few minutes and when I was leaving wondered how he knew I was on a tour.  Not long after I realised I was wearing my name badge.  It was at that point that I only wore it when I have to.

After a quick lunch at another cafe I hopped back on the bus for the next drive to Fox Glacier.

hokitika jade jewellery

hokitika jade jewellery

hokitika jade jewellery

Hang gliding off Mt Tamborine

After we left Wayne Clements’ gallery Carol asked if I would like to go and watch the hang gliding.  Whenever the conditions are good for it (which lets face it, is most of the time on the Gold Coast), dozens of people get their gear out and go up to the mountain.   They love the views of the hinterland they see when gliding through the air.  One of them described it as floating through the air and being so peaceful.   It’s not something I would like to do but it was such a lovely day.  Perfect for sitting on the side of the mountain and watching them launch off the side.  It can be hard to park so we parked down the road and walked back to the launching spot.

Curtis Falls….Mt Tamborine

Before we went to Gallery Walk, we drove to one of the National Parks on Mt Tamborine to go for a small bushwalk.  We were going to walk the 1.5km return track to Curtis Falls.  As you walk the track, you descend into a Eucalypt forest.  It was only around 10am so the air smelled really fresh.  I love walking at this time of the day.  We walked along a twisty path, past extremely tall eucalypts and other smaller trees and bushes.  As we got closer to the Falls there were quite a lot of steps.  When we got to the bottom we saw a small pool and further around the next corner we came across the Falls.  There has been a lot of rain recently so there was plenty of water falling into the small pool.  The sun was shining through the canopy, casting a beautiful glow through the trees.

Curtis Falls

http://www.tamborinemountain.net/bushwalks.html

 

As we walked back up all the steps to the flatter path then back to the car we began looking for scrub turkeys.  I was beginning to think they were a mythical creature because I hadn’t seen any.  Apparently there was one near the start of the path at the car park.  We did see mounds of mulch that the turkeys create but I thought they were just mounds of mulch.  It became a bit of a joke and that’s when I began to think they were a mythical creature.  Bec even googled it to prove that it was real.

Gold Coast – Mt Tamborine

On a beautiful, sunny and warm Sunday morning, Carol, Bec, Brad and I drove to Mt Tamborine.  Mt Tamborine is in the hinterland of the Gold Coast, just 30 mins drive from Surfers Paradise.  When flying into the Gold Coast, we flew over the mountain.  It looked lush and green and I was looking forward to visiting an area of Australia I hadn’t seen before.

I was assured the roads aren’t too windy.  We had all been in New Zealand and experienced many long and windy roads on a 48-seater coach and I had avoided such roads since coming home.

I wanted to go and visit Wayne Clements’ art gallery in Eagle Heights.  http://www.wayneclements.com.au/  Wayne is an artist that paints with larger brushes than most artists.  My Dad watches his show on community tv every week.  Sometimes I get to watch him too and the paintings he produces are amazing considering the large brushes he uses.  He paints portraits and a lot of landscapes.

Carol thought his gallery might have been on Long Road, cleverly named Gallery Walk, a picturesque, tree-lined street in Eagle Heights.  http://www.discovertamborine.com.au/index.php/gallery-walk-east/.  There are over 70 shops, cafes and art galleries along the street.  Along with the usual craft shops there are two fudge shops.  I bought my fudge (one was Kahlua and the other one was Cookies and Cream) from the first one but I can’t remember what the shop was called.  The second one is called Fudge Heaven http://www.fudgeheaven.com.au/.  Although I didn’t buy anything from there I tried some of the ‘adults only’ fudges as well as the Lemon Meringue fudge. That’s currently my favourite flavour.

I wanted to have Devonshire Tea for brunch so we went to Gallery Cafe.  The cafe is set back on the property with outdoor seating at the front and side.  There are lots of trees surrounding the cafe.  They also have a function room where they host a lot of weddings.  It was still a little chilly on the mountain so we sat inside.  The service and the food were really nice.  Bec’s plate had a Have a nice day written with chocolate sauce.  It was a really nice touch.

Jabbawockeez at Jupiters Casino

The Jabbawockeez were finalists on America’s Got Talent some years ago and are now performing at Jupiters on the Gold Coast.  The show is a hilarious mix of mime, dancing and expression-less white masks.  There are around seven performers on stage at any one time.

I loved the unusual start to the show and laughed and clapped my way through the 90 minute show.  The end came too quickly.  I wished it could have gone on for at least another 30 mins.

Here’s a review:  http://www.goldcoastmagazine.com.au/2012/04/review-jabbawockeez-mus-i-c/

If you’re on or near the Gold Coast they have several shows, including matinees, each week and tickets are very reasonably priced.

Gold Coast wheel….spectacular views 60m above ground

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I saw the wheel when we were taking the scenic route from Sizzler back to Carol’s house.   I wanted to go on it because I’ve been on the Brisbane wheel and know how good the views are from up that high.

We were walking along Cavill Avenue when Carol pointed it out.  We decided to head towards it.  I was looking forward to seeing the view from 60m above ground.  It took a while to find it because the directions are, well, non-existent.  The wheel sits on top of a building that houses tourist operator’s booking desks.

The cost for adults is only $11 but with my student discount card it only cost $6.50. Bargain!!

From 60m above ground you get a great view of the ocean and the mountains as well as the canals that a lot of the Gold Coast are built on.  We completed seven rotations which allowed me to take a lot of photos and a few videos.