Posts Tagged With: Christchurch

The Longest Ride of my Life

Our last day on the Topdeck Trip was long and trying, if I can put it lightly.  First of all, we had a lot of ground to cover – the tour usually takes two shorter days to break up the distance between Milford Sound and Christhurch, but since we missed a day when the Haast Pass was closed, we had to hightail it back to the city in one loooong day.  Total hours on the bus? 12.  Total actual hours on the bus by the end of the day? 17.

Let me explain.  We made pretty good time after breakfast and hopping on at 7:30, and were passed Queenstown by lunch.  Our bus broke down on the side of the road at, oh, around 2:30pm.  We head a long “hissssssss”, and pulled over quickly to check out what it was.  Luckily one of our travellers was a trusty mechanic, and could tell what we needed and how to repair the damage. We waited for a mechanic, and it was fun to hang out by the bus for a while, but taking picture and taking in the scenery got boring after a while, and I actually went back on the bus and used some time to type up some blogs I needed to catch up on. Score!  

So we thought the mechanic had fixed the problem, and were back on our merry way when “HISSSSSSS” went the bus, and we had to stop a second time, call the mechanic, etc, and wait again for the bus to be fixed.  After about a four-hour delay, we were told that we would only be using this bus to get to the nearest town and would be picked up in a new bus!  Well.  The new bus was actually a school bus, with barely enough room for all of us to crowd into it with our luggage. The situation went from bad to worse after that with all of us cramped together, we still had about five hours to go on this tiny crappy bus, we were all tired and cranky, and hadn’t eaten for a long time.  We finally stopped at McDonald’s around 9pm and had to deal with greasy-fry smelling bus all the way back to Christchurch, finally arriving around midnight. 

It was very anti-climactic after that to say goodbye to our friends and chat with each other, we were pretty sick of each other by that point!  But we did manage to get some hugs in as we dropped our friends off at various hotels and hostels, I stayed at this cool hostel called the Jailhouse, and was met with a key and warm soft bed that night.  Ugh!  What a ride!  It’s too bad we had to deal with it, but nobody missed their flight, and it was handled well by Topdeck, so I couldn’t ask for much more.

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Categories: New Zealand, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

What does the Fox (Glacier) say???

My morning began late – I got to sleep in cause my Glacier walk didn’t start until ten am.  A van took us up to the terminal face of the Fox Glacier and we hiked up to check out the views. Others on the trip opted for a much tougher half-day hike but I didn’t take part.  I’m from Canada, people.  It’s snow and ice. Big whoop. Actually it was pretty majestic to see the glacier cascading from the cliffs, we got to see lots from our viewpoint, so I was happy with that.  Lunch at the glacier chalet was delicious, but after that our trip got thrown off the rails and kept going that way for the rest of our time together. It wasnt necessarily a bad thing – we still got to see and do everything we were promised, but there was no sticking to the itinerary, that’s for sure!

Let me explain first.  The roads through the mountains are subject to inclement weather and the only road through the mountains to Queenstown was closed half an hour after we left the town of Fox Glacier. Unfortunately there was no cell service to let us know that, so when we got to Haast Pass, we had to turn around and go back the way we came!  It was unfortunate but out trusty guides let us know we would still (eventually) get to our destination, but it would be the long way round.  We backtracked all day on the bus, stopping quickly for dinner in Hokitika (now a ghost town after 5pm) and watched movies on the bus until late in the evening when we finally arrived BACK in Christchurch for the evening.  There was nothing to do/nothing open so it was an early night, in preparation for the long drive ahead of us the next day.

Luckily our drive was broken up by some pleasant stops as we took an alternate route to Queenstown.  First up was morning tea and a tour at Morelea Farm, a sheep farm run by a lovely couple who explained to us the finer points of sheep farming and how their thousand hectare farm operates  I got to feed a little lamby!! It ALMOST made me feel bad about how much I love lamb.  Lol.  We also got to see how the sheepdogs round-up the sheep for the farmers, and how a sheep is sheared.  it was a really informative visit, and I’m glad it was included in our trip because we pass so many farms along the way on our travels and gave me insight into a subject I don’t know too much about.  I am now a sheep farming expert!

There were a few more stops that afternoon, lunch was at Lake Tikapo where I caught my whole family on the phone while they were having Thanksgiving dinner.  It was so nice to talk to everyone!  I loved reconnecting with them, and it made me a wee bit homesick.  I was determined to enjoy the rest of my time in NZ, though, and chatted with my lovely bus buddy Andrew (from Ireland) alllll the long way to Queenstown.  We rolled in a few hours before dinner, and had some time to settle into our apartment style suites before eating at at the world-famous Winnie’s bar.  They stuffed us with pizza and garlic bread and salad until we were groaning, and then we got to have a special treat – a trip to an Ice Bar, where everything is made of ice, including the drink glasses!

It was fun to suit up in the excellent winter coats and gloves provided for us, and look at all the cool sculptures and features carved into this bar made entirely of ice.  They even had an ice air hockey table and an ice photo booth!  We all took WAY too many photos and had a great time sampling ice shots and yum drinks as well. We only left when our hands were frozen to our glasses and our shoes were wet. haha!  it was a great way to end a long day of driving, I’ve always wanted to visit an ice bar, now I can cross that off my list as well!

 

Categories: New Zealand | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Long Drives and Great New Zealand Views

We’ve had a long couple of travel days that were broken up by some sweet sites as we make our way down the coast on the South Island, our first short stop was at Oahu Point to see some smelly seals!  There were over a hundred seals just hanging out below us, frolicking in the waves and mini pools, fighting, playing and generally just looking like a big ol family.  They kind of smelled, but hey what do you expect from some animals that hang out eating fish all day? After we had our fill of snapping pics of the seals, our next stop was Kaikoura, a small town overshadowed by huge rocky snowy mountains and a pebble beach.  We had a couple of hours to kill in this lil place, so we shopped and looked around and ate a delicious lunch of Thai food (very authentic NZ, I know).  There were opportunities for some people to go whale watching and dolphin watching, but most of us opted to take a hike along the peninsular walk to spot some more seals and wildlife along the way.  it was a great way to stretch our legs, and there were definitely some hilarious moments as it had rained and the slippery paths made for some spectacular falls as well!  After lunch we entertained each other with funny videos on the bus (cat massage, anyone?  a little prancercise, perhaps?), getting into Christchurch early that evening.  it’s kind of frustrating that I would be there three times over the next week and a half, without really getting to see any of the city. Boo 😦  We stayed in a hotel in the suburbs, the city was shook by a devastating earthquake in 2011 and the downtown has yet to be fully rebuilt.  Our place was very cosy, and the beds were luxurious, perfect for a long lovely sleep!

 

 

Categories: New Zealand | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How To Fly for Dirt Cheap in SE Asia

I am exactly one day away from takeoff!! I’m packed, double-checked and excited to start my journey tomorrow from YYZ.  Before I go I wanted to break down some costs, since this is one of the most frequent questions I’ve been asked in the last few weeks:

What does is all cost?

How much money do you need to make a trip like this?

 

WELL. That’s a good question.  Let’s start 7 or so months ago when I was formulating my trip.  I decided where I wanted to go and what routes to take. After briefly looking into Round the World tickets and travel agents and finding them ridiculously expensive, I set out to create my own budget itinerary and figure this out myself instead of relying on a more expensive travel agent.

  1.  I bought a one way ticket to Jakarta. I know. Not smart or cheap, but it was the kick in the butt I needed to get started planning my trip. IT WAS HAPPENING! ($1200)
  2. I began looking at all the places I might like to travel in SE Asia and pricing them out with AirAsia, the discount airline I chose to book most of my flights with.
  3. Checked with my lovely travel partner to talk dates, flying strategies and places we wanted to see. Bought tickets to Bali, Manilla, Palawan, Boracay)
  4. Then the real fun began.  I knew I had about two months of travel to plan, and no idea what to see. So the cheapest flights won!  Manila to Singapore will cost me $45.00 US ALL IN!
  5. I saved a flight by combining two countries and deciding to travel overland to Malaysia, which happened to be having a huge seat sale to AUSTRALIA! I immediately bought a cheap flight to AUS.
  6. Then – a snag. Flights to NZ weren’t cheap, but I sucked it up and bought the $250 ticket cause I wasn’t going to go see OZ without at least peeking at NZ.
  7. After that I was broke, and metaphorically stranded in NZ for the next three months as I made more $$ and watched the price of my return ticket rise and fall. Then – a week ago, I saw the cheapest price from Christchurch, NZ to Toronto that I had ever seen ($900!) and bought it now that the cash flow was better.

It was a bit of a hit and miss approach, and here is a full disclosure look at how much my flights are costing me in total.

Toronto – Vancouver – Manilla – Jakarta  $1207.00

Jakarta – Bali $ 63.83

Bali – Manila $ 147.00

Manila – Kalibo (Boracay) $ 33.00

Kalibo (Boracay) – Manila $30.17

Manila – Palawan $ 29.23

Palawan – Manila $ 33.86

Clark – Singapore $ 44.60

Kuala Lumpur – Gold Coast (Australia) $ 173.34

Sydney – Auckland $ 261.05

Christchurch – Toronto $ 908.00

Grand Total: $ 2,931.08

Yup!  Eleven flights for just shy of three grand.  Now, AirAsia has not been the easiest airline to book with (one flight has been cancelled outright, one has had the time changed and one had the date changed) but the customer service has been decent via the internet in getting some quick responses to my questions, even via twitter, so props to them for that. I will update after a few flights to see if the amazing prices are worth the travel experience aboard AirAsia.  I took two domestic flights in Thailand last year with them and both went perfectly smoothly, so I’m trusting my own experience with the airline and taking a chance on some cheap flights. Wish me luck!

EXACTLY 24 HOURS BEFORE I BOARD THE PLANE.  I AM VERY EXCITED! ALSO I AM YELLING!

Ask questions, comments, quips or queries below 🙂

xoxoxo

D

Categories: In the Air, Pre-Trip, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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