Posts Tagged With: NewZealand

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.

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

Jade Factory and a Real, Live Kiwi!

The next morning we met eight new people who were joining our tour, and I bonded with a sweet American girl who sat next to me.  We marveled at the amazing views that were passing our window and had lots of stops to take pics of the mountains that surrounded us as we crossed into the NZ alps. This huge mountain range divides the island in two and made for some interesting crossings over the next few days.  We stopped for a break in Arthur’s Pass, and sat back sipping our coffees as we drove over bridges, under waterfalls (!) and up the sides of the valley to the other side of the coast.

 

The west coast has rapidly changing weather due to the influence of the mountains, and we got a taste of that when rolling into Hokitika for our lunch break.  The sky opened up on us as we were wandering over to the Kiwi Experience museum, and we got inside just in time.  It was time to see a real live Kiwi!  Kiwis are New Zealand’s wingless endangered bird, a very cute and very strange little guy who motors along the ground at night searching for little bugs with his long beak for dinner.  The museum cleverly has the Kiwi on European time, so that means it was night when we showed up to watch the Kiwi go about his business.  We entered the darkened room in a hushed silence – we had to be quite if we wanted to see the little guy!  After a few minutes he came out of his hidey-hole and started running around his large enclosure, digging in the dirt for his dinner and generally being super cute.  We must have watched him for over half an hour, laughing when he banged into things (he can’t see very well) and “squee-ing” when he came up close to the glass.

 

The sky had co-operated while we were inside the habitat, and it was almost sunny again as we went in search of some lunch.  We also visited a Jade factory in Hokitika, watching how the artisans craft the beautiful jewelry and weaponry in traditional Maori designs.  Lunch was whitebait fritters (a local NZ fish, yum), and it was only a short drive after that to our destination for the night in Fox Glacier.  We went on a gorgeous walk that afternoon around Lake Matheson, and had a chance to exercise our legs and see some gorgeous views up close.  The dinner at the Fox Glacier Inn that night was delicious, and I daresay I got into the wine a wee bit and had some laughs with the group by the cosy fire that evening.  I was loving my group!  So many interesting people from around the world, plus there were eight new people to get to know who had only joined the day before.  Tomorrow: it was time to see the great white glacier.

 

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

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