Long Road To Queenstown

Trip Start Aug 08, 2007
Trip End Sep 01, 2009

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Friday, April 4, 2008

And so it was time for road trip 3 to begin, 16 days which would take me right around the whole south island.  We started by leaving Christchurch and heading inland towards Lake Tekapo via lunch at a small place called Ashburton.  Lake Tekapo I'd heard about of other people and it was a stunning lake surrounded by mountains and with a small church on it's lakeside, but a few kilometers further up the road there was another lake called Lake Pukaki and this for me was even more stunning.  That night we stopped back at Lake Tekapo at a lakeside lodge - it's great to wake up in the morning with a stunning lake in your front garden. 

We then drove from here to the city of Dunedin.  Dunedin is very Scottish in it's heritage and the name itself is the olden name given to Edinburgh, and it has the only castle in New Zealand.  More importantly its home to the Speights Brewery and Cadbury's factory.  On the Friday we got there we went out a found a really cool bar called the terrace which had a massive room for watching sports in.  Unfortunately sports consisted of rugby and I ended up watching something like my 4th or 5th game of rugby league while I'd been in New Zealand (beating my previous lifetimes total of 3 matches).  Afterwards we played pool with the locals and got tipped of to go to Steward Island as hardly any tourists bother and there was a pub which loved getting foreigners in which sounded good.  We also heard that there were some good tramps there.  I wasn't quite sure if that was a remark aimed at me or not but nonetheless I imagined in my head an island full of well spoken, good tramps behaving well and not harassing people.

On the way back to the hostel we popped into one last pub before last orders.  'The Empire' had a band on that night, so there was added incentive but it turned out to be Slipknot wannabees so not quite my cup of tea but something to tap my foot to with a beer nonetheless.  I got chatting with the barmaid in here who was originally from Sheffield, came to New Zealand traveling, married some guy and stayed.  In fact her and her husband now owned the pub we were sitting in which was cool as she treated us to free flat-liners and whiskeys for the rest of the night and an impromptu lock-in till 3am.  I think it was a novelty for her to see fellow northerners in her pub.

The following morning I was up early (10am) to go to the Speights brewery for a tour but arrived to find out they'd been booked up for the entire day - drat!  I then headed to the Cadbury's factory to find that the factory was closed today but there was still a limited tour available - drat again!  I took up the option of the limited tour anyway and got to see the basics of what happens in the factory along with a goodybag of cadburys products.  Incidentally Cadburys do a rip off of a Mars bar over here called a 'Moro' and their 'Boost' bar is called 'Moro Gold'.   We also went to see the famous chocolate fountain in there but that was a bit of a disappointment too as it was just a machine that gushed liquid chocolate straight down into a whole at the bottom.  Never mind, I brightened up the visit by playing in the Cadbury's trucks for a while.  In the afternoon I went down to the docks area to find that the Rainbow Warrior had pulled in for an exhibition, and it was free to go on-board and check the thing out.  This was the second Rainbow Warrior as the first one was at the bottom of Auckland harbour having been bombed by the French secret service, and it was a very interesting tour and filled you in on all the good work they're doing on tackling and raising awareness of environmental issues around the globe.

Sunday morning started with a walk up Baldwin Street, the steepest street in the world - official - before following the southern scenic tour route around the south coast.  First stop was Tunnel Beach (very similar to stuff I'd seen on the great ocean road in Oz), followed by lunch beside Lake Waihoula and then on to Kaka Point and Nugget Point where there was the possibility of seeing yellow eyed penguins.  Despite waiting a good 40 minutes or so the flippin things didn't turn up so we headed of to Owaka to first of all see the sea-lions on the beach and then find accommodation for the night.  The place we decided to stop at had a sign on the door saying just go in and help yourself to a room and we'll see you later.  There was no-one in the apartment whatsoever and all the doors were open so it was just a case of going in and settling in.  I loved that this was the case and I'm sure the place would have been trashed and emptied if it was left open in other places in the world. 

The next morning we headed on across the bottom of the coast stopping at the Purakanui and MacLean waterfalls and Waipapa point on the way to our eventual destination Bluff.  Bluff is right on the edge of the southern coast and it is the ferry port and access to Steward Island.  However a quick rethink was on the cards here as the price of the ferry had more than doubled to what we originally anticipated and secondly the weather was looking pretty crap for the next few days, so we decided to give it a miss and start heading north.  Oh yes and the tramps on Steward Island?  Well I found out tramps means a trek over here, so nothing to be worried about after all.  After a brief food stop in Invercargill, we headed further on to the smaller town of Riverton and stayed at a pub in the town centre - I love staying in pubs, bed and beer in one place, brilliant!

The following day we headed up to Te Annau via places called Monkey Island & McCrackens Rest where we read that there was the possibility of seeing penguins here too - obviously not on the days we get there though.  We stopped at Lake Hauroko for lunch which was once again a beauty of a lake - New Zealand really have mastered this lake business to a tee.  In Te Annau we stayed at another lakeside lodge and didn't do much other than spend the night drinking and chatting with the rest of our mini-dorm.  In the morning we were up early for the 2 hour drive to Milford Sound.  While backing out of the car park we saw two hitchhikers who were just pulling their 'Milford Sound' placard out of their bag when we offered them a lift.  The quickest successful hitch-hike in history?  It took all of 5 seconds we reckoned beating their previous best of a minute.  Julie and Sebastien were both from Germany and entertained us on our journey with arguments with each other about whether there were speed limits on the autobahns or not.  At Milford Sound we checked into our cruise, getting a real bargain in the process as we had vouchers from our car rental company that meant we only paid $30 each.  The cruise lasted and hour and a half and took us through the very beautiful Milford Sound.  I think it's one of those things that has to be done in New Zealand, but the Three Gorges in China was still much more impressive for me.

On the way back we made a brief stop at 'Knobs Flatt' (I want a job naming villages when I get back home, it sounds a hoot)  and after dropping our hitchhikers back off at Te Annau, we headed up to Queenstown - adventure capital of the southern hemisphere.  And so my 3 nights in Queenstown consisted of the following:

1) Jumping of a ledge to a 134 metre drop over a canyon with a piece of elastic tied around my ankles (thats the Nevis Bungy jump - highest in New Zealand).  I didn't think I was mega nervous about it but the DVD images of me just before the jump tell a different story.  The adrenaline rush was brilliant but far too quick for my liking.

2) Mad Dog River Boarding - This consisted of surfing down grade 3 rapids on just a body board rather than a big dinghy.  I have to say that as far as work outs go this was a complete killer and very hard work. I had cramp after about 5 minutes and all my legs and upper body ached afterwards.  As well as the rapids there was some cool water slides and swings, rock jumping and a very cool hanging off the back of a jet-ski while it tear-assed it around the river at high speed.

3) Partying hard to celebrate still being alive!  Of particular note was the Buffalo Bar where a round worked out at less than $5 because of an offer with the hostel we were staying at, and the World Bar where cocktails were served in teapots.  And then there was Fergburger, a burger joint that everyone had raved about in Oz and New Zealand.  A great bit of word of mouth marketing methinks as the burger wasn't anything special for my money but the place was consistently packed at all hours of the day.

And that was it for Queenstown, it would have been nice to stay a while longer as it was a really cool place (very cool in fact I had to wear 3 layers of clothes at one stage) and I think there was more to see and do, but doing stuff is very expensive indeed and I can see how you could easily blow your budget to pieces in a place like this.

Still searching for them damn penguins though .....
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starlagurl on

Even though you had quite a few disappointments, you always make the best of things. That's exactly the right way to travel, good on you!

Louise Brown
TravelPod Community Manager

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