Thursday, March 12, 2009

We're home

We made it back safely last night. Now I'll have to get on to downloading the photos and filling in the details of the trip!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Heading Home

We were picked up at our hotel at 9am, to be driven to the airport. Our flight was at 10.30am. The drive to the airport took nine minutes. We had a lot of time to spare. So we drank coffee and sat around.

After we arrived back in Christchurch, we had four hours to kill before our flight. Since our bags were checked through Queenstown we didn't even have to check in again. We had lunch at a restaurant/bar type place and played a game of pool. I lost.

Then we went and sat in the Air New Zealand lounge and I read my book, the boy read the paper and played on the internet. We had a short four hour flight home and landed just before 5.30pm.

After we got off the plane we had to go past the sniffer dogs. For some reason the dog took an interest in the boy's bag. Very weird. We collected our luggage and then got sent to have our bags checked. The customs officer said the dog was a drug sniffer dog which really freaked me out. Obviously we had no drugs but why did the dog take an interest?

Anyway after lots of questions, they unpacked some of our bags and did a drug swab test, which came back negative. So we were allowed to go. I knew we had done nothing wrong but it was quite scary!

We made it home safely and the Huffle was very happy to see us.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


It rained for most of today so we had a quiet day in the hotel. We went out for breakfast, wandered around town for a bit and I had a facial at the day spa. The boy took the car back to the hire place, since we were being picked up and taken to the airport in the morning.

We felt like something simple for dinner so we found a small italian restaurant and had pasta. Mine wasn't very good though.

It was a nice relaxing day.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Milford and Queenstown

When we were driving to Milford on the world's longest bus ride, it started pouring with rain. Apparently that was a good thing, because it meant lots of part-time waterfalls would be cascading down the side of the mountains.
And they were right. It was stunning, especially when the sun came out.
I even managed to catch the rainbow over this one.
Because Milford Sound is really deep, the boats can get right under the falls so you can feel the spray on your face (and everywhere else not covered up).
These are New Zealand Fur Seals. They hang out on the rocks and play. The best part of seeing them was when one of them hopped on the back of the boat after dinner and waved at us. The only people to see him were the boy and I. We felt pretty special.
See that tiny boat in the distance? That's actually a cruise ship carrying 2,000 passengers and 800 crew. That's how big Milford Sound is.
The lights you can see in the bottom left corner of this picture are from the underwater observatory at Milford Sound. We didn't go there but you can see the marine life and coral and everything, if you want to.
After the traumatic bus ride yesterday, our driver told us we might be able to fly back to Queenstown. We though that sounded like a great idea but the weather was against us. No flights into Queenstown today. Happily, the helicopters were flying so we went back to Queenstown on one of those. The best part was a glacier landing. It was just amazing. Here are the boy and I standing on the glacier.
And this is our helicopter.
We had a short 50 minute flight and a 15 minute cab right back to our hotel. It was so worth it! The glacier was amazing and it totally made up for missing the flight over Fox Glacier earlier on.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Milford Sound

We got picked up from our hotel at 8.20am today to start the journey to Milford Sound, for an overnight cruise. On the way we stopped at Kingston to have a look at this steam train. Then we went for a ride on it, which was pretty cool. It was built in 1925, with carriages dates back to 1898, and restored to its former glory so that tourists could enjoy it.

This is one of the many waterfalls we passed on our VERY long journey from Queenstown to Milford. It took about seven hours on the bus. About five hours too many.
Anyway we finally made it to Milford around 4pm, to get on our boat for the overnight cruise. It was stunning but I don't have many photos because it was getting dark. Suffice to say we had a really nice time, even if it was a buffet dinner, and we had single beds. At least we had our own room.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Ooooh Helicopters!

This morning we woke up to a bit of blue sky but a lot of cloud. We had a helicopter flight booked for midday, taking us over to the two glaciers but we had a bit of time to kill so we went for a drive around Fox Glacier township. We saw a sign to the lookout so we went there first.
There are some fairly spectacular cloud formations over the glacier here.
After viewing from the far away lookout, we decided we still had plenty of time so we went for a drive to the actual glacier, where you can do a bit of a walk and come out next to it. Amazingly, the road looked like this - total sub-tropical rainforest. Freaky.
After walking for about 20 minutes we came out on this lookout. It was sort of misty and the sun was shining so there's a bit of haze.
This glacier has been advancing since 1985, unlike the Franz Josef glacier which has been retreating for 250 years.
These photos can't begin to describe the amazing size of these things. They are just enormous. And incredible.

We went back to town to the helicopter office but the weather had gotten a lot worse so our flight was cancelled. It was really disappointing. They offered us a refund but it's not the same as flying over the glaciers and landing on one!

So we got in the car and headed off to Queenstown. It's a long drive, over five hours, through some spectacular scenery. We drove through national parks with amazing forests and waterfalls, then got to the drier region near Queenstown and passed massive gorges with rivers thundering along at the bottom, but not many trees on the hills. We stopped in Wanaka on the way, which was very pretty, and carried on to Queenstown. We stayed at the Sofitel, which was just gorgeous, particularly since we had a room looking over the lake.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Fox Glacier

We left Punakaiki this morning and headed for Fox Glacier (yes, that's the actual name of the town). We stopped in Franz Josef on the way, to have a look at their glacier too.

See all those little coloured dots? Those are people who are closer to the glacier than we were.
This is the river created by the melting glacier.
And here's a shot of the glacier again. It was quite amazing and we could walk on all those rocks all the way to the base of the glacier, but it started raining so we headed back to the car.
You might have heard about two men who were killed when a part of the glacier fell on them about two months ago? That was this glacier. But they had jumped over the rope and gotten closer than they were meant to.

We got back in the car and drove on to Fox Glacier. We headed straight to our accommodation, Te Weheka Inn, because by now the rain was coming down in bucketloads.

We didn't go very far for the rest of the afternoon because it was dark and pouring with rain. Staying in our room with some magazines was far preferable. Dinner too. And it was a very nice dinner. We were just hoping the weather would improve in the morning for our helicopter flight over the glacier.

Thursday, March 5, 2009


We arrived in Punakaiki after a long drive, maybe five hours. We stopped a couple of times on the way so it wasn't too bad. And the scenery everywhere we go is stunning. Anyway, we arrived at the Punakaiki Resort mid-afternoon, so we had a bit of time to relax.

We stayed in one of the eco suites, and it was very nice! But no mini bar again, so the boy went back into town (two shops) to get some beer for himself. I went for a walk on the beach, armed with the camera. Thankfully the boy had reminded me to take the spare battery with me, because the one in the camera died after two photos. But I was organised so it didn't matter.

The beach was nice but it was fairly windy and not very warm. It means I had it all to myself so that wasn't so bad. This was a little waterfall and creek that ran across the beach.
These are the pancake rocks that Punakaiki is famous for. Scientists don't know why they are formed that way. They really do look like stacks of pancakes.
Here's a little rockpool with some interesting patterns at the bottom.
I was playing around with the camera, trying to slow down the exposure to get the effect of rushing water looking all cloudy, and mostly succeeded here. Other photos I took were so overexposed that you couldn't actually tell what you were meant to be looking at. These are all beach photos, by the way.
Except this one. These are the pancake rocks proper. They are enormous and all shaped like stacks of pancakes.
There apparently was a blowhole here too but we didn't see it. I'm guessing it had been eroded since the signs were put up. But it was worth seeing.

We had dinner at the restaurant at the resort, once again very nice food. It was lovely listening to the waves as we went to bed too.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


This morning we sadly left the Hapuku Lodge, headed for Nelson. We decided to go to Picton on the way, only to discover it wasn't on the way at all, and we had to drive back to Blenheim to then get to Nelson. But we drove through the Malborough wine region which was just lovely. I even recognised some of the winery names.

Picton was lovely, but quite small. We headed on to Nelson, to find our next accommodation, the Honest Lawyer.

I did not enjoy Nelson in the slightest. I was navigating with a very bad map (we'd stopped at the visitor centre in town to try and find the way to our accommodation) and I managed to get us lost. For the first time, I might add. The boy got annoyed with me and told me I clearly couldn't read a map, so I threw it at him and told him to read the effing map himself. He then got us lost twice more. I was getting sick of going around in circles so I took the map back and found the way.

We didn't think much of the Honest Lawyer, to be honest. It was one of those Olde Worlde type places, which I don't like at the best of times. And we'd booked the Rose Cottage, but when we got there they told us it had sprung a leak and had moved us to the honeymoon suite.

Pffft, honeymoon suite my ass. It was the smalled, darkest, pokiest room I've stayed in in a long time. Seeing the look on my face, the boy offered to go find some other accommodation but I couldn't be bothered. So I sat in the beer garden and read my book while he went off to find some chocolate to placate me. No room service or mini bar, you see. The food from the bar wasn't too bad though.

We left as early as possible the next morning and headed to Punakaiki.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Whale watching

This morning we went to pick up our hire car. They gave us a Hyundai Sonata. We ended up referring to it as the gutless wonder. But it got us everywhere we needed to go so I guess it was okay. Next time though, I'm going to insist on a better car.

We then drove to Kaikoura, about three hours away, to go on a whale watching cruise. At first we thought we might not get to go, because the weather was pretty bad, but they sent us out anyway, making sure we had all taken motion sickness tablets. The swell was 1 - 2 metres, so it was pretty rough out there. I have never had motion sickness in my life but the boy suffers terribly and I was quite worried that he'd spend the entire time out the back throwing up. Luckily the ginger tablets and Kwells he took did the trick, and he was fine.

This is the beach at Kaikoura. You can see the weather isn't very nice.
This is a Sperm Whale poking his head out of the water to look at us. It was quite amazing and our nature guide said they rarely do that so we felt quite special.
This is one of the whales showing us his magnificent tail as he headed back under the water. These whales were about 18 - 20 metres in length, and were quite amazing to see. He was a long way off which is why his tail looks small. They're really not small at all.
This one is an albatross that lives in the area. They skim along the tops of the waves, looking for fish. The wingspan on this one was about 9 feet. I can't remember the exact name of it, I was really looking for more whales.
And here you can see the whale as he's about to head back under the water. For some reason my camera had a fit and stopped taking photos for 5 minutes, so I missed the close up view of his tail. But at least I saw it in real life, which is more important.
After the cruise (two and a half hours which seemed like about 20 minutes) we headed off to find our accommodation. The maps the car hire place gave us were practically useless so we did a lot of driving around randomly looking for places.

Eventually we found our accommodation. It was called the Hapuku Lodge and it was absolutely stunning. We stayed in one of the treehouses and Wow! is all I can say.

This is the view from the shower. Yes, the shower.
This is the view from the lounge, which had a fire as well. We did light the fire, even though it wasn't that cold, just because it seemed like we should.
We ate dinner in their restaurant and the food was delicious again. I would highly recommend Hapuku Lodge to anyone going to Kaikoura. We've already decided we need to go back at a different time in the year, probably winter, just for the stunning scenery, and to see more whales.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Tranz Alpine Train Ride

Today we went on the TranzAlpine Train over to Greymouth, and back to Christchurch. It's a four hour ride in either direction, and the scenery was quite amazing. I didn't take many photos because it's hard to take photos from a moving train, so you'll just have to trust me that it was lovely. I did get this one photo of the Canterbury Plains as we were coming back into Christchurch.
Greymouth was pretty but there wasn't a whole lot there. We only stayed for an hour to have lunch, then had to get back on the train to come back to Christchurch. But it was nice enough. I slept a lot on the way back, having seen all the scenery already. It was a very relaxing day!

We decided to go out for dinner - the boy went and did some reconnaisance and found a nice italian restaurant for us to eat in. Their service was a bit slow but they had the best garlic bread I've ever eaten, and my dinner itself was delicious. It started raining while we were eating but wasn't really cold. Luckily it had mostly stopped by the time we walked back to the hotel so we didnt' get too wet.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Departure Day

This morning we left the house at the crack of dawn (really - 7.15am) to head to the airport to fly to Christchurch. We arrived about 2.30pm and were collected by a very nice man with a van big enough to carry 10 passengers. He drove us to our hotel - the George Hotel - and give us a bit of a tour of the city on the way.

In the afternoon we went for a walk along the Avon River, which winds through the park that is in the middle of Christchurch. It was right opposite our hotel and very nice. It's a pretty city, remind me a lot of an English village (only bigger).

We decided late to have dinner in the hotel but there were a lot of people in the restaurant so it took AGES for us to get our food. I think the waitress knew we were annoyed because we got free dessert. My meal was nice, which made it not so bad.

No photos today because I didn't think to take the camera on our walk. Silly, I know.