New Zealand 2019

Lauren and Gareth's Wedding

Owen and Julie in the UK

France 2013.


Photos 1 Photos 2 Photos 3

2 Dec. We caught a Didi ride to the airport at 0745 to get there for our 0945 departure, no problems. We had 2 seats alone on the Virgin A330 to Melbourne, the seating being 2-4-2, so again all was good. Arrived at Melbourne on time, had a Big Mac to top up the meal on the previous flight, and proceeded to the flight to Christchurch. We had a one hour delay out of Melbourne which meant we would not arrive until close to 0100 the next day, even though that was still 2000 Perth time. On arrival, I bought a couple of bottles of Bushmills whiskey duty free and then proceeded through immigration. Caught the shuttle bus from the airport to the hotel, $24, and were taken to the door of our hotel. Even though it was only 2100 Perth time when we got there, we were knackered. It was 0200 local time. Our room at the Break Free on Cashel was the size of a shoe box. Half the size of our motorhome.Not even a chair to sit on. The bed is set high so you can get the suitcases under it, just as well, or we would have had to sleep with them on the bed. We've been in some very small hotel rooms in London, but this one takes the cake!

3 Dec. We slept in until 1000. The fact that we are in an internal room meant we had no window so the room was pitch black. Went to a Food Hall sort of place at the end of High St and had breakfast. After that we went back to the hotel, sorted out the paperwork we needed and caught an Ola to the airport to pick up our hire car. Impressed with the car, quite new, only 12k on the odometer and built in satnav. I'll probably still use the Tomtom, but nice to have the option. Drove back to Break Free and parked in their carpark for $15 a day. Went walking to take in the Bridge of Remembrance, the damaged Christchurch Cathedral, drinks at bar, and a few more sights. We went back to the Food Hall for dinner and the place was really rocking, not bad for a Tuesday night. Don't think we will go back on a weekend!

4 Dec. Still getting over the jet lag. Not a great sleep again last night. We had gone shopping yesterday and bought, among other things, some cereal and milk. We had that for breakfast then headed to Akaroa, 80km by road east of Christchurch. It was a good drive. Akaroa is a town on a large estuary that was created by a volcano many millenia ago. Stunningly pretty place. We drove in the main road which followed the valleys and after staying there for lunch, drove back via the tourist drive that followed the crest of the hills. We expect this to be the precursor of what is to come. Many WOW moments. We were planning to drive back via Lyttelton which is part of Christchurch port, but we were both tired so we headed home. Went back to the OGB Bar that we went to yesterday. Had their signature share plate which was very good. Big problem here is the price of drinks, $30 for 2 glasses of wine. Oh well, I guess we will cope.

5 Dec. Slept in again, didn't wake until 0945. Had our cereal again and walked to the Botanic Gardens. They had some amazing trees there, among other plants as well, but some of the biggest trunks we have ever seen. Had morning tea there at lunchtime. Went through the Christchurch Museum which was good for history up until colonisation but not a lot after that. They did have a big section dedicated to Antarctica which was very good, though not one mention of Mount Erebus. I did once but I think I got away with it. We then saw more of the city which we really like. Christchurch has a nice feel about it and everything seems so close. Our hotel was right in there which was great. Later in the afternoon we did the scenic drive to Lyttelton, Christchurch's port. Cute little town. We had a drink at the Fisherman's Wharf bar overlooking the port then headed back to the city. Dinner at a Malaysian restaurant.

6 Dec. Set the alarm this time. Had the buffet breakfast at the hotel which was good, packed up and set off to Hokitita, on the west coast. The road goes through Arthur's Pass to cross the mountains. It was a good drive but would have been a lot better if it was in sunshine instead of overcast rain. Nevertheless, the scenery was really good, especially west of the Pass, where we got quite close to high waterfalls and the rushing river below. We arrived ahead of our expected ETA at the hotel in Hokitita, seeing we didn't stop as much as we expected. We had booked the motel direct over the phone yesterday and got it for $125 a night, rather than the advertised price of $160. Pretty cool. We checked in and then went to Hokitita Gorge, the long way, via Lake Kaniere. It was made even longer when we had to wait for the dairy cows to clear the road but it was an entertaining delay. Getting closer to the gorge, there was lightning and thunder from what appeared to be close to the gorge, like, over the top of it. We let that blow over went to the suspension bridge over the gorge. Because of the torrential rain before our arrival, the gorge was a raging torrent of muddy water, not the calm glacial turquoise that is advertised. Pretty good regardless. We were approached by a Canadian or American guy at the gorge. He had accidently gone too close to the edge of a bit of unsealed road off the carpark. What looked solid was really long grass covering the sheer drop off. One front wheel was off the road and free wheeling. Nothing I could do to help, it was sitting on chassis, so the best I could do was find a towing service close by and get them on the phone for him. I suspect that was an expensive mistake.
Drove back to the motel the direct way. I had a whiskey and Julie had a cup of tea, envying my alcohol! We were going to walk in to the town for dinner but the wind was wild, so we drove. Being a Friday night, we didn't feel like taking on the hordes so we bought a cooked chook and some side dishes from the supermarket to take back to our room. Bought a bottle of Cab Sav to keep Julie happy. We are still undecided as what to do tomorrow. Fox Gacier is closed due to road damage and the only free walk to Franz Josef only takes you within a few hundred metres of the crumbling face. The other tours are insanely expensive. Might wait until Norway for that one. We have walked on a glacier at Zugspitze in Germany anyway.

7 Dec. We checked the status of the roads through the glaciers and found they were closed UFN. We decided we needed to go back through Arthur's Pass to go south on the east coast. Checked the roads and the Pass was open, so far so good. Got to within 10Km of the pass ans there were a lot of cars coming back, there had been a rockfall blocking the road and restoration times varied from 2 hours to 2 days. We drove back the way we came and went via Greymouth and Lewis Pass to get back towards Christchurch. This added on many hundreds of Kms on to the journey. We kep going south, aiming for Geraldine, about 135Km south of Christchurch. 130Km south of C'church we we sent back. The 2 bridges across one of the rivers were both underwater. The is now no road access to the southern part of the South Island. All the accommodation between there and C'church was taken, so it was back to the city and the same hotel we had left yesterday, though this time with a king room, much better.
After 12 hours driving and over 800Km, only to get back to where we started, we are both tired, so the big bed will go down well.

8 Dec. Peter and Julie arrived last night so we caught up for a morning coffee. They wont have a car while in Christchurch so I suggested we take them to Lyttelton the same way we went a few days ago They agreed and we did just that. Julie is doing a load of washing this afternoon. I have rung Reevers Lodge in Queenstown where we are booked for 3 nights from tomorrow. Looks like they are not interested too much, even though thousands of people will be affected. He said we would have to take it up with head office for a refund if we can't get there but don't hold our breath. Not good PR and will be an interesting test of our Visa card travel insurance.
My UK 3 Sim is playing up and depleting my credit at an amazing rate so I bought a local Spark Sim for the rest of our trip. We went to dinner with Peter and Julie at an Argentinian eating place, more meat than you can poke a stick at, all very good. Checked the website again for the road closures before bed and no change.

9 Dec. Still no change on the road situation, starting to get a little desperate. We looked at the options online and the best bet was flying to Invercargill. I called the car rental people to see if we could drop the current car off at Christchurch and pick up another one at Invercargill. They would have done that, but they don't have a branch there. They have branches in Queenstown and Dunedin. We went to the local Flight Centre and could get a flight on Wed afternoon for about $570 for the to of us. We put the seats on hold until we could find out more. Walked to the tourist information and asked about the road and the guy there said they had just heard that it would open at noon today. Great news. It was too late for us today and we have already paid for tonight at the hotel anyway. Besides that, even if we arrived at the bridge at noon, the queue of traffic would have been huge. We will leave tomorrow morning and hopefully make Queenstown at a reasonable time. It is about 7 hours by car, plus a few more for traffic delays and stopping to sight see along the way. We wont be doing any stopping before we cross the bridge though.
We then went to the Quake City Exhibition, dedicated mainly to the quake of 2010 and a bit more of the 2011 one, but also the history of quakes here since settlement. That's a long history. It was a very good exhibition, the best part being the personal experiences on the video. 80% of the buildings in the CBD have been demolished. Only a few from the actual quakes, the rest from simply being beyond restoration. There are still many vacany blocks in the CBD, now mostly Wilson Car Parks (bloody vultures), but still quite a few still standing that will probably be demolished when their time comes.
Later in the day, Julie went to the Art Gallery and I did some shopping and cancelled our flight hold. We are now crossing our fingers that some overloaded truck doesn't demolish the newly opened bridge! We went to dinner again with Peter and Julie to the food hall we discovered the first night. All went well.

10 Dec. Set the alarm for 0700 but Julie still managed to get up 15 minutes before then. A quick pack up, followed by a full breakfast (it was going to be a long day), and we hit the road by 0840. A hassle free run down to the newly opened bridge with very minimal delays. Crossed the river and immediately had to take a detour. That still got us where we wanted to go but we lost about 25 minutes had there been no diversion. The drive from Geraldine to Queenstown was an absolute delight. Many WOW moments. Scenery was fantastic, flowers (Lupins we think) were a great display, lakes, mountains (including Mt Cook) it was more than enough for one day. Arrived in Queenstown a little after 5pm. The room we have is fine, nothing 5 star (maybe 2 star, or 1) but fine for what we need. The double bed is upstairs in a loft arrangement. It is an OH&S nightmare. I am sleeping on the bottom bunk downstairs. Julie is using the double bed at her own risk. We will see how tomorrow pans out!

11 Dec. A continental breakfast was included in our package at Reavers Lodge, which is really a backpackers place. It was about as minimal as it could be but at least we didn't have to use our own cereal. We drove to Coronet Peak in the morning and the scenery was sensational. Nothing was operating when we got there at 0930, the cafe was opening at 1000 and the chair lifts at 1030. It's a first for us to arrive at a place so early that nothing was open. We didn't wait around, we only have one full day in Queenstown instead of the two we initially planned for. Went to Arrowtown, an historic village 10 Km away from Coronet Peak, and it was worth the visit. Nicely preserved and restored but still a normal working town. Lots of history there, it used to be a gold mining town in the 1880s and 1890s. On the way back into town, we stopped at the Shotover river where the jet boats go from. It was pretty but no action at the time. It had been suggested that we visit Glenorchy at the north western end of the lake, but that would have been an hour and a half round trip, so we drove some of the way to see the views then went back to the city. Managed to find a 15 minute parking bay and had a quick walk around the foreshore and the eating district which we will visit tonight. Headed home and took half the afternoon off. Back in to town for dinner and we decided on Devil's Burgers, both having the Moroccan Lamb. Really good too. Walked around the waterfront for a while then drove home.

12 Dec. Had our fill of the breakfast at the Lodge, slowly packed up and checked out right on 10am which is normal checkout time. It is only about a 2 hour drive to Te Anau, our next destination, and we didn't want to get there too early for checkin. As fate would have it, we had other things to soak up the time. 80km out of Te Anau, we had a rear tyre blow out. The car comes with a space saver spare which is really odd, because when I changed the wheel, the full size one still fitted in the slot. A kind policemen stopped to see if we were OK, which I was, by that time removing the blown tyre. He stayed and chatted with us for a while, lovely guy, and made sure we got away all right. The worst part of the space saver tyres is that you can't (shouldn't) go over 80Kph, so the last leg took a bit longer. Tried to find a new tyre at the next town but they didn't have that size (it's a Corolla.. really?) so when we arrived at Te Anau, we checked in and I went to find a new one. Managed to get one, $148 fitted, balanced, and put on the car. Great service from the guys here. So, everything being normal again, we went in to the town and did a walk through, checking out places for dinner. One of those was a pub that has roasts which lamb being the special tonight. Decision made! Back to the hotel, a walk around part of the lake, a wine, then it was time for dinner. We were advised there that a large group had just arrived and overwhelmed the kitchen so it would be an hour or so before they caught up. We opted for fish and chips at another place. We have made a booking for tomorrow though for the lamb roast. Tomorrow, Milford Sound!

13 Dec. A quick cereal breakfast then out to the front of the hotel to get our ride to Milford Sound. They turned up a few minutes late but we can forgive them for that. There were nine in our group which was a good number. Douglas, our driver and guide, was very good. I ended up sitting in the front passengers seat with him which was good because I got the best view. We stopped a couple of times on the way to see some of the sights then continued to Milford Sound to get the boat. We were advised to get the left side of the boat, port side for the sailing purists, and I was keen to get on quickly. We were queued up in the rain and I could see the guy waving for us to come on. The 20 or so people in front did nothing so I called for the others behind to go and made my way to the front. Managed to be first on board and got the best table on the port side. We were joined by a couple of older guys from Chicago and a woman from Germany who were all on our mini tour. The trip in to Milford was amazing, as we saw all the temporary waterfalls. These are waterfalls that only occur when it is raining, and it sure was raining this morning. A spectacular display. So many waterfalls all coming down the mountains. When we got going on the cruise, there were an equal number of these temporary waterfalls. There are only two permanent waterfalls in the Sound and both of those were good, but with the temporaries, there are hundreds, and the temps are not insignificant. The payback for these falls is that we could not see all the mountains, they were covered in low cloud and mist. Given the choice, I think I would pick the rain and falls rather than clear skies and no falls. Best scenario is you do it twice under both conditions. Good luck on achieving that! On the way back to Te Anau, we stopped for three walks, each for around 30 minutes on average. All were interesting and a spectacle in their own right. All in all, a great day. We would thoroughly recommend it. Back in town and we went to the pub for a lamb roast, a fitting end to a long day.

14 Dec. Had a full breakfast at the hotel before we left. Always nice to start on a full stomach. We headed to Manapouri, the next town south, which is where people start their Doubtful Sound tours. It is a small town but on a pretty lake which is above normal levels like most of the lakes in the area after all the rain. Stayed there and chatted to an English family that were about to head off to the sound. Then it was down the rest of the scenic drive to Invercargill. I had called the woman who runs the place we are staying at in Dunedin as she sent an email to me to check on arrival time etc. Julie and I were both sure that we were arriving there on Monday, therefore having 2 nights between now and Dunedin. The more I was running dates in my head the more confused I was, but not as much as Christine in Dunedin was. Anyway, she was going to have it ready for Monday. When we checked, we are actually there from Tuesday. I embarrassingly rang her back to say we had stuffed it up in our minds, and she was correct. She offered us a discount cash deal for Monday as an extra night, but we decided to spend 2 nights in Invercargill instead of the one we had booked. This holiday has been full on and full of drama and I need a day off, so tomorrow, I get that. Invercargill is a very large town, or small city, whichever way you want to look at it. Saturday afternoon, the CBD was almost dead. Few shops open. Seems like a quaint city anyway, so we will do a bit of exploring tomorrow. We are staying at Quest Apartments for the 2 nights which is right in the CBD and pretty good value too. Julie is cooking dinner in tonight even if the cooking facilities are a little on the minimal side.

15 Dec. We planned on a relaxing day today and that's what happened. It was a constant light rain and we went for a long walk to the old Water Tower on the other side of the CBD. It was pretty good, but it has been closed to the public for many years due to concerns about its structural integrity post earthquakes. Then it was off to Queens Park, the main garden park in Invercargill. Very nice too. The only problem was that it was freezing cold. About 9C but felt a whole lot colder. Back to Quest for lunch and then drove to Bluff, the oldest constantly populated town in NZ. There is a great lookout on Bluff Hill too. A good view of Stewart Island which seems to be a lot bigger than we expected. We won't be getting there though. Tomorrow, we head to the Catlins Forest area. We need one more nights accommodation before we get back into sync with our previously booked site in Dunedin.

16 Dec. Left Invercargill and headed down the Catlin Coast road. the first stop being Waipapa Point. There is an old lighthouse here, installed after a shipwreck on the reef in 1881. There was also a sealion having a little rest on the beach there. While I was admiring him, a local park worker (may have been a ranger, I didn't ask) walked down. We got chatting and the sealion become far more animated. Turns out, he knows this guys voice. He also pointed out to me an old Maori dumping ground which is being slowly eroded on the beach edge. All very cool. Next stop was Curio Bay, famous for its petrifed tree fossils which were a little underwhelming to laymen like us. Also famous as the breeding ground for yellow eyed penguins, the most threatened penguin species. We didn't see any.
Next stop, Lake Wilkie which had a nice walk around it, nothing much else. Then on to Florence Hill Lookout which was a great view of the coast including a pretty good beach, but, not surprisingly, no swimmers. It's really cold today. Matai Falls came next. A pleasant walk and not too bad falls, but sadly, not the spectacle that we saw on the west coast. That is to be expevted because the west coast has mountains instead of hills and about 100 times as much rain. Was good anyway. More falls to come at Purakaunui. This was a three tier falls, and given the minimal water flow was quite spectacular. Then it was on to Owaka to find a motel room for the night. We found one for $120 which was most satisfactory and only a 5 minute walk to the local pub for dinner. Can't ask for more!

17 Dec. Took our time getting ready to leave as we were less than 2 hours away from Dunedin where we couldn't check in until 1400. We went via Nugget Point which has another light house but also a significant fur seal colony. We saw one from the first lookout swimming around in the water quite a distance from us. Still pretty exciting to see. Then we went along the 900m path to the lighthouse and saw many seals on the rocks below us. The landscape at the point where the lighthouse is was awesome. A spectacular view. Back to the car and off to Dunedin via a lunch stop at Balclutha. Place names here are very hard to pronounce and even harder to remember. Arrived in Dunedin 30 minutes too early so we drove around the CBD for a while and burned off the excess time. The place we are staying at here is very central and very quaint and updated with most of the mod cons, including fibre internet at speeds around 260Mbps, which is VERY fast.
Julie did some washing while I had a haircut. It cost me $10, the only bargain we have had in NZ, everything else seems so expensive compared to home. Bought a Thai preprepared dinner for tonight, now that we have a kitchen. Good feed too.

18 Dec. Not a touring day today. Peter picked Julie up at 1030 and took both Julies to the High Tea at Larnach Castle. They had a good time. I met up with Peter, Keith, Ross and William for lunch at Speight's Brewery which was a good value meal. Hayley and Craig arrived from Christchurch a bit after 1600 and after a little confusion, Hayley finally got yo the hens night at 1800. She had a good time, judging by her enebriated state when she got home. In the meantime, Julie Craig and I met up with the Huxtable clan at Keith and Penny's house they are staying at. Had a knock up tea and a few drinks ourselves. All in all, a good but very different day.

19 Dec. Mid morning, the four of us drove to Baldwin St, which, until this year, was the steepest residential street in the world. I don't know where is the steepest now, but Baldwin would be very hard to beat. It was an amazing sight and by the time we walked to the end of the street and back, we were all knackered. On the way back in to the city we had a very large bird hit us with deluge of droppings. It must have been something like a pelican. I dropped the others in the centre of the city and drove back to our place to hose the car down before it dried. I then walked back to meet up with the others for lunch. We walked a section of the Dunedin Archtectural Heritage Trail which also took in many murals on the sides of buildings. Dunedin is a pretty town. Next on the agenda was for Hayley to go to K&P's to do the flowers for tomorrows wedding. Craig drove there with Julie and Hayley. I had a hot bath to soothe my aching legs! Tonight, we are going back to Speights for dinner with Peter and Julie. The restaurant is booked out but we should get a table in the bar area.

20 Dec. Caitin's wedding day is starting to look decidedly terrible on the weather front. It is cold, raining and very low cloud. We are due at the Otago Golf Club at 3pm so have ample time to do more sightseeing but it's not a great day for it. Julie and I did walk down to the Dunedin Train Station which is a timeless piece of classical architecture. Loads of character, very impressive. The four of us, Hayley, Craig, Julie and I, took an Uber to the golf club club so no one had to be skipper. It was a nice setting, I almost felt like playing a few holes but it was still very windy. The wedding went well. Ubered home at a respectable time.

21 Dec. Packed up. Hayley and Craig set off to Te Anau for the Milford tour tomorrow, and Julie and I headed to Christchurch again. It was a good drive with the first third of the distance being very scenic and the rest not uninteresting either. Got to the Airport Motel, unpacked the car and took it back. All hassle free. The restaurant at the motel was closed so they were running a shuttle service to and from the Avonhead Tavern about 3 Km away. We took advantage of that and had dinner at the tavern. Alarms set for 0520 the next morning for our 0800 departure to Auckland. The flight there was only 1 hour and 20 minutes on an A320. Peter and Julie were on the same flight and Ross and Di were on a slightly later one. We were all on the same flight from Auckland to Perth. That flight was out first time on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The difference between that and older generation aircraft was not as obvious as I hoped, though the environment was more pleasant. I've had more comfortable seats in other aircraft however. Arriving at Perth we got a Didi home and crashed early that night. The 5 hour time difference had a negative effect on us.
All in all, an interesting trip to New Zealand though next time we might motorhome it!