A Travellerspoint blog

Our time on South Island is coming to an end!

sunny 23 °C
View Antipodean Antics on FandC's travel map.

Hi everyone,

We are currently in Picton which is the port of departure for the ferry to North Island. We have an overnight stop here before taking the ferry to Wellington where our travels on North Island begin. We are having a great time and only wish that we had more time to spend here in NZ. With 3 weeks in total we are only getting a flavour and there are many places we would love to have visited but simply do not have time.

Anyway our last blog left us in Hokitika so to follow on from that point we had another long drive of about 4.5hrs to get to a place called Motueka which is a small town on the edge of the Abel Tasman National Park. Once again the journey was stress free on quiet roads where you often don't see another car or motor home for many miles and once more the scenery was fantastic. We usually stop for coffee at a small town cafe and the coffee is always excellent. They have something called a flat white which is quite different to a flat white in the UK and looks more like a cappuccino but slightly less froth (but still quite frothy) and a really smooth taste. So that has become our favoured morning drink accompanied by a chocolate brownie or similar.

Whilst at Motueka we booked a walk cum water taxi cum kayak trip into the Abel Tasman National Park. It was a brilliant way to see this beautiful place. Walking and kayaking in the Park is strictly controlled for nature conservation reasons and most people go in on an organised trip. There is a long distance track that is only accessible on foot but we did not have time for that as it takes several days. Our trip involved walking on what is considered to be the most scenic bit for about 2.5hrs and then being transferred by water taxi to a little sandy cove where we were kitted out with gear and given basic instruction on kayaking.

The walk was lovely, mainly shady with tree ferns and other native trees along the way. There were stoat traps among the trees as they are trying to control these imported predators to boost the population of native birds. Through the trees we could see little coves and inlets fringed with white sand - very picturesque.

It's fair to say that Christine was a bit apprehensive about the Kayaking but we were given good instruction and got off to a good start. It was idyllic paddling along quite close to shore. We saw a huge sting ray like a big shadowy disc under the water with its scary barb sticking out of the water. The two guides with us were keeping an eye seaward all the time and sure enough the threatened wind got up and really started to blow and the swell on the sea began to develop. We had a relatively short way to go by then- just across the bay but it was tough going and amid shouts of 'keep paddling' and 'lean forward' and 'turn into waves' we finally made it. The last in our little group and with a fixed grin on Christine's face. ( Christine says - it was a bit scary for a non-swimmer and goodness didn't my arms ache that night!).

So a quiet day was required after this experience. We went into Nelson, quite a bustling little place and then on our way back had lunch at Seifried Winery. Lunch was very good and so was the wine tasting afterwards - and we now know which label to look out for in Waitrose and M & S.

Today, Sunday we travelled on to Picton ready for our ferry tomorrow. We had not expected much of Picton and assumed it to be a commercial port with a functional purpose. As we approached we entered an area known as the Marlborough Sounds and it became clear that Picton was set in yet another delightful picture book location. The Sounds are a series of deep sea channels separated by hilly islands covered in trees. Picton is a small and lively town with lots of good shops and caf├ęs / restaurants. We went for a walk along the headland out of Picton and watched today's ferry leave as it made its way up Queen Charlotte Sound and out in to the Cook Straight.

More photos to follow soon

Love FandC

Posted by FandC 21:09 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Going Crazy in Queenstown

sunny 22 °C
View Antipodean Antics on FandC's travel map.

We are now in a strange little place called Hokitika on the west coast of South Island. We are staying overnight before moving on to the northern tip of South Island where we plan to spend a few days at the Abel Tasman National Park. Interestingly Hokitika is the main place in a book about the Gold Rush in NZ in the 1880s called The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton which won the Booker Prize this year and we are reading this book on our travels. It's an excellent book by the way. The town is very small but neat and tidy and there is only one place to eat "Stumpers" which is a typical pub cum diner. We had excellent lamb dinners!

Anyway moving back to Queenstown this really is the adrenalin capital of NZ. There are so many ways to scare yourself silly but we opted for just two. Frank jumped off a cliff, see photo and then we both took an exhilarating ride on the Shotover Jet Boat down a very narrow gorge with umpteen 360 degree spins on route. On our second day which we both enjoyed the most, we took a flight in a Cessna plane from Queenstown to Milford Sound over spectacular snow covered peaks and then a cruise up and down Milford Sound with many waterfalls, near vertical cliff faces and fur seals basking on the rocks. Finally a return flight back over Lake Te Anau and more mountains to Queenstown. It was simply stunningly beautiful and what's more the weather was perfect with clear blue skies and continuous sunshine. This area does experience up to 7 metres of rain a year so we were very fortunate.

We were really tired on our return to the campervan and crashed out for 9 hours sleep - most unusual these days. In fact we are sleeping so well in our little bunk above the cab that we're wondering about selling the house and buying a campervan!

Today we drove up to Hokitika (about 500 km). It was quite a long drive but the mountains and rivers were stunning and the roads were very quiet. There are supposed to be penguins nesting on the beach here but we haven't been able to spot any despite two visits to the beach. The weather has again been very good, sunny with clouds only around the mountain tops. It can be quite chilly in the mornings though. We can hear the Tasman Sea from the campsite so we should soon be asleep . . . .

Posted by FandC 01:11 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Photos from action packed day in Queenstown

sunny 21 °C

Just a quick post to alert you to a few photos from our adrenalin high day in Queenstown. We will post more at the end of our stay here tomorrow.

Posted by FandC 21:56 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Photos from Dunedin and update on our Travels

all seasons in one day
View Antipodean Antics on FandC's travel map.

We have uploaded more photos from the last few days.

We set off from Lake Tekapo in lovely sunshine and had a great drive through the hills on very quiet roads, save for a charity cycle ride coming from the opposite direction. We also had great views of Mount Cook across a lake. But as we got to Dunedin the skies clouded and by the time we were walking to the beach, it was raining. We decided to go out for a meal and chose a restaurant recommended by Lonely Planet. Getting there involved a bus (no problem) and then a walk through a traffic interchange and into the docks area (big problem - it was windy, a bit wet and a bit on the seedy side). Finally we arrived at Plato, housed in a corner of the Seaman's Mission. Most peculiar place but very busy (thanks to Lonely Planet!) served excellent fresh fish dishes and so I suppose, it was worth it in the end but I was not seeing the best side of Dunedin! (Christine here) ......Frank thought it was quirky and interesting.

Today, however we woke to sunshine and took a drive down the Otago Peninsular to an albatross colony. We were very lucky to get the last two places on a little tour and then a view of the nesting birds and also some juveniles flying around and strutting about on the hillside. This is the only colony of albatross on mainland NZ and in fact one of the few places on the planet where you can see them without venturing on to remote rocky outcrops in the middle of the ocean. It seems to be a well established colony of over 80 birds. They mate for life and produce one egg every 2 years. Once the chick is fledged it simply jumps off the cliff face and does not return to land for 6 years when it returns to the same site to find a lifelong mate. They have a wingspan of 3 metres and weigh about 10 kilos. They glide effortlessly on the wind but are very awkward on land. It was fantastic to see them so close and flying on a sunny day in a fresh wind.

In the afternoon we had booked a train ride up the Taieri Gorge from Dunedin. It was a 4 hour round trip up a steep sided gorge on a lovely old train. The line is operated by a charity these days and is not part of the national rail system and was constructed in late 19th century. It was constructed to get farm produce down from the hinterland to the port at Dunedin but it must have been an expensive and risky venture and was subject to much criticism at the time on grounds of cost. However from a tourism point of view it's now a great asset and quite an amazing journey with great views and some scary drops down to the river. Christine chose not to look down at these sections!

Well that's all for now we hope you enjoy our little diary. We are off to Queenstown tomorrow.

Love FandC

Posted by FandC 00:33 Archived in New Zealand Comments (2)

Motor Home Moments at Lake Tekapo

We arrived at our main travel destination (New Zealand) after a reasonably short flight from Sydney. We left Sydney on a gloomy day with light rain and arrived in Christchurch with a clear blue sky and temperatures around 35C. This has surprised us as we thought it would be the other way round. Before we came on this trip friends and relatives who have been to NZ before always mentioned how English it is and how friendly every one is. This is exactly as we have found it apart from the temperature of course!

On our first night in Christchurch we were in an airport motel so after getting sorted we set off to the city centre for a look round and a bite to eat. We were so shocked to see the extent of the post earthquake damage. It looks like it will take many years for the centre to be redeveloped. There were many roads blocked off and many cleared sites. We struggled to find a place to eat. Many businesses apparently relocated to the suburbs and only recently have some begun to come back in but it was clear that the city centre was really a ghost town. We did manage to find somewhere good to eat in a pub / restaurant which seems to be a common format here in NZ. The main impression is that the residents of Christchurch still feel sad and wounded by the earthquake which happened 3 years ago now.

The following day we set off to pick up our motor home. It was a bit of a bad experience. The depot was very busy and they said it would take up to one hour to get to us. As it happened it took 2 hours and for those after us it must have taken longer. Tempers were rising around the waiting room but when we did get attended to there was a fulsome apology and a compensation payment back to us of 300 NZ dollars which we thought was generous and eased our temper. Anyway by the time we had been through the mill and taken possession of our van and done the supermarket food shop it was late afternoon as we set off for our pre booked pitch at Lake Tekapo. We had planned on a journey time of about 2.5 hours but in the checkout at the supermarket we were chatting to the assistants and were told it would take 5 hours. Panic was setting in about whether we would reach our pitch that evening. However the checkout girl was obviously wrong and we made it in about 2.5 hours as planned. We had however lost much of the day due to Maui the delays at the motor home company! But we arrived at an idyllic pitch overlooking the lake and we soon forgot about our frustrations. We ate in the village centre in yet another pub restaurant. There was a bride wandering round in her bridal gown - there is a beautiful little church nearby which is apparently very popular for weddings. We couldn't face unpacking and getting sorted, so left all that until this morning.

We decided to try sleeping in the bed over the cab of the motor home - an interesting experience with some good and some not so good points. The whole vehicle seems to rock gently when you climb up there - a bit like being just slightly tipsy and the ladder is a bit precarious. On the other hand, we can leave that bed made up which is good and we had our best nights sleep so far!

Posted by FandC 01:16 Comments (2)

(Entries 6 - 10 of 15) « Page 1 [2] 3 »