Road Trip - Episode 3

Trip Start Jun 04, 2009
Trip End Sep 06, 2010

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Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Woo hoo more sunshine! Ah when the weather is good here it's really good!  Breakfast out on our decking in the sun before we hit the road again for a day trip to Wanaka and beyond to climb up to the Rob Roy Glacier.  Once again we were winging our way out of Queenstown but this time heading north to Wanaka with me at the wheel.  There are two roads to get there one, via the simple flat highway passing the pretty vineyards and one up over the mountains via the scary steep turns and sheer drops.  Naturally I ended up negotiating the mountain pass with stunning scenery looking into the valley but having to remind myself to not look at the views and also to not shut my eyes when the road got scary.  At the top of the pass we found ourselves in snow again before heading steadily back down to Wanaka where we picked up the necessary picnic supplies before heading towards Mount Aspiring National Park.  There is just one gravel road that goes through the national park getting us to the starting point for our hike up to the Rob Roy Glacier and it’s not in the best condition.  The views from the road were among the best we had seen on the whole trip, everything you could want from stunning mountain scenery and beautiful sunshine.  It was tempting to spend the whole day just stopping at view points along the road as every corner presented another photo opportunity but after we really got the best from a particular lake and its reflections we decided to plough on to the start of the hike as we still had an hour to cover on the gravel road until we were due to get there.  Unfortunately we had only gone about 400m after making the commitment to not stop when we were forced to by the road ahead being flooded.  The water level looked a bit daunting and we were unsure whether we could make it but luckily a car was coming in the opposite direction so we were able to observe them in action first.  After making it across successfully the driver informed us that there were 10 rivers to ford on the road (owing to the big rainfall that we had in Milford) between here and our destination, some worse and some better than the one in front of us.  He seemed pretty confident we could make it through and since it was such a beautiful day, our spirits were high (and it wasn’t our car) we decided to give it a go.  I made my way across the river on foot to be able to video the attempt for you and the plan was for Dad to follow me while Steve did the driving.  The event proved successful but Dad ended up a bit worse for ware – I’ve uploaded the video for you to see (and I recommend you keep a link to it if you ever need a good laugh – sorry Dad it had to be done!)

Still laughing from events of the first 'ford’ we somehow managed to make our way across the other 9 unscathed, although I have no idea how unless we had actually rented citty chitty bang bang by mistake.  The start of the hike was more beautiful scenery from glacier fed turquoise rivers, rolling green hills to the towering snowcapped mountains all around and of course the cherry on the top being all the adorable famous New Zealand lambs skipping around without a care in the world.  Once we crossed a dramatically placed swing bridge we were steadily climbing up for a couple of hours to a wonderful view point that displayed the enormous Rob Roy Glacier on the opposite mountain.  We had a great picnic, made better by the fact I’d slogged up the hill with a bottle of wine in tow (hiking Amy-style), watching the waterfalls and avalanches coming off the glacier and falling into the valley below.  It was actually very hard to photograph it for you though as it was on such a big scale and the brilliant sunlight bouncing off the white of the snow made the cameras a bit boggled – a bit like me after the wine.  Post picnic Dad had a sunbathe while Steve and I went for a walk off the path further towards the glacier but somehow we ended up loosing each other and I got in trouble for causing mass panic.  However I would like to set the record straight that if two people lose each other it is unfair to point fingers as to who it was that did the ‘losing’ and who got ‘lost’ making it unjust for me to take the blame for the problem occurring.   Anyway I digress, once both of us were found again we collected Dad and played with the mountain parrots who had come to see what all the fuss was about before making our way back down the mountain in excellent time having a welcome break in the shade of the trees before finally getting back to the car and contemplating the route back through another 10 rivers.  What a good little rental car we had! 

Just before we got back to Wanaka and the gravel road had finally ended we pulled over for stunning views of Mount Aspiring reflected in the Lake before sunset.  After a long day we decided it was best to get dinner in Wanaka and refuel before getting back to Queenstown for the night.  I’d heard a lot about Wanaka being a small version of Queenstown and I had thought it couldn’t get much smaller than Queenstown but as Wanaka, and other towns we visited on our road trip made us realize, Queenstown is a thronging metropolis in comparison to most New Zealand settlements outside of the major cities.  Wanaka was eerily silent as we wandered the streets searching for somewhere to eat, once we turned a corner and a few more tumbleweeds blew past we finally decided on one of the two restaurants we could find and by chance had a very pleasant meal given so few options.  On the drive back to Queenstown we wisely went via the highway and stopped for a stargaze in the middle of nowhere with no light pollution to show Dad the Southern Cross (or what we thought it was).

The next morning we genuinely did have a lie in but as we (read ‘me and dad’) were accustomed to early mornings we were having breakfast at 9 anyway.  Today looked a little grey and with us being truly spoilt by the weather we decided not to seek out the views and instead to explore the thrill seeking side of Queenstown.  As my birthday present Dad treated us to a jet boating trip on the Shotover River which entails zooming along in a Kiwi designed jet boat that can still shift in 10cm of water meaning it can take you right up against the sharp and nasty rocks with just millimeters to spare at high speed.  Throw in some 360 degree spins and you’ve got a pretty good ride!  We had good fun holding on tight and making embarrassing noises as Steve sneakily made some videos on the waterproof camera.  Back on dry land we decided there was a chance the weather was going to improve so chanced a short drive to Glenorchy which was the main base for filming for Lord of the Rings.  On a side note the road atlas for New Zealand is excellent as they have integrated all the filming locations into the map so places like Lothlorian and Riverton are all labeled alongside real places making the trip much more fun.  I know from many many photos and postcards around Queenstown than Glenorchy is about as stunning as it gets but no matter how beautiful a place is if there is a big cloud in the way it pretty much just looks like cloud.  Donning the legendary wet weather gear from before we went for a short walk around the town rather than attempt any of the mountain walks and ended up taking some time out in a very nice café full of freshly baked goodies.  Back in Queenstown we fell back on an old reliable wet weather activity of hiring one of the hotels private hot tubs where we had our own view over the lake and a good supply of chocolate and beer to keep the three of us as relaxed as possible after a wet walk.

For dinner we took Dad to the best place to eat in town, Fergburger.  The best burgers in the world can perhaps be imagined but not described so try to picture them and then times it by 10, both in terms of flavor and size of portions!  Dad did very well polishing off his Cockadoodleoink burger and fries and then we went to wash it all down with some drinks by the fire at Winnies and enjoy bit of live local music.  Another weather resistant day of enjoyment behind us but sadly just one more day of the trip left to go.

On Dad’s last Day Steve had to work but before he left us we all went down to the underwater observatory at the lake together.  The only free thing to do in Queenstown and yet one of the best.  The lake gets deep very close to the shore and is surprisingly clear so you can marvel at the massive trout, eels and diving ducks who look silver with all the air bubbles trapped in their feathers.  I could spend hours down there but after Steve and Dad said good bye it was time for me and Dad to continue our adventure with the rental car into the vineyards.  We stopped at Amisfield winery which is in a beautiful location surrounded by mountains and by the side of the lake, wonderful building, delicious looking menu and very tasty wine – just a shame they found the grumpiest lady in New Zealand to serve us!  Undeterred we carried on to Arrowtown a village formed as a result of the goldrush and enjoyed walking around the historic Chinese settlement and the quaint high street with all authentic shop signs from the goldrush era.  After a luxurious lunch in a French café and a few purchases from the handmade fudge store it was sadly time to head to the airport and say our goodbyes.  We’d managed to book Dad a window seat for the flight to Auckland which proved to be well worth it for more mountain views from a different angle and two days later he was back on UK soil.

Phew!  Hands up who made it this far without a snooze (not me!)

Thanks for coming along for the ride.

Lots of Love,

Amy, Sunny Steve and Daredevil Dad

P.s I just wanted to mention on a modest note that the blog has been attracting some outside attention from Tucan Travel, who we did the South America tour with, they have added a link to it on their website to promote tours.  Also TravelPod have selected 5 photos from these last three blogs to be their featured photos on the homepage (whats really nice is that selection includes photos taken by all three of us).  Also Steve has been really sucessful selling photos of the trip so far on stock websites for magazines etc to buy and print and is actually now making regular money from it!  Who knew fun things could be rewarding too!
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julia_ackroyd on

Love the video of Sam......excellent! Good one guys xxxx

Amy's Dad (Sam) on

Thanks Amy & Steve for the holiday of a lifetime! Well done on this superb blog. Good luck in your future travels.

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