Posts Tagged With: NZ

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

Misty Milford Sound

The drive to Milford Sound started too early, but I’m glad we didn’t have to skip this incredible place!  It’s probably one of the most remote places on the South Island, or the world for that matter, but it is a huge tourist attraction.  We were about to see why.  We drove along lake Wakatipu for most of the morning, before turning off and heading to Te Anau where we got to grab some stuff for lunch from the supermarket, along with some snacks and treats ad the last WiFi (gasp) before heading over the mountain pass to Milford Sound.

The drive through Fiordland National Park would take us through some serious Sound of Music territory, with snowy-capped mountains, misty waterfalls and lush greenery at every turn. We worked our way through the valley to the Homer Tunnel, stopping for spoke very aptly named Mirror Lakes, two small lakes that reflected the mountains above perfectly in their waters.  Then we started to see some real snow outside, and prepared to go through the Homer Tunnel, a 1.2 km long tunnel that connects Milford Sound to the outside world.  We made it through the darkness of the tunnel without mishap and were greeted with more snowy mountain views and waterfalls as we drove in the rain to our next destination: the Milford Sound Nature Cruise!  We got to actually go out on the water in this gorgeous tour boat and see the natural wonders of the area that make it so famous!  Unfortunately Mitre’s Peak was obscured by clouds, but we did get to see tons of waterfalls that only form when it rains, so I GUESS there was a plus to all the rain we had 😦

I wasn’t too happy on the boat after an hour, we reached the ocean and weren’t sheltered by the sound anymore, but quickly turned around again and had some penguin sightings, no dolphin sightings, though!  Lunch was on the boat, and we were ready after a long day of travelling and sightseeing to go back to our accommodations and settle in for our last night.  We had a few free hours to hang out and explore in the rain if we wanted to (not), and then got dinner at the ONLY restaurant in Milford Sound, which is not really a town so nobody actually is a permanent resident in it, besides the people who work and make a living there. Talk about remote!  That didn’t stop dinner from being excellent, however, and we were all very satisfied but found ourselves with nothing to do when we got back to our accommodations! There was a big cosy common room, so we did eventually find some games to play and enough to do until bedtime.  It kind of sucked that we couldn’t go out and celebrate on our last night or even have a glass of wine, but I wasn’t exactly in party mode at this point, I was so close to being back in Canada it was hard to stay in the moment and keep enjoying my last few days abroad! And besides. I won at Scattergories. Who needs booze? 😛

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Climbing Mount Doom in Tongariro

Our mountain lodge in Tongariro National Park reminded me of a sweet old school Canadian Ski lodge – lots of fake wood and fireplaces, a great base point for all of our adventures that day.  I opted out of the longest (8 hour!) hike and instead decided to do the six-hour Tama lakes hike with a handful of friends from the tour.  It felt like we were setting off on an epic adventure together – LOTR style, baby!  The hike started out easy at first, we were walking across plains and some foresty areas, and even saw a sweet waterfall.

We walked and walked and WALKED, to the lower lake and sat for a while enjoying the view.  Since we were already near the top, we decided it was worth the extra 45 minutes to the top lake, which didn’t look that far away. It ended up being pretty tough going near the top, the gravel pathway was rocky and for every two steps we went forward we took one back.  I actually felt like I was climbing up mount doom, hobbit style.  Luckily we were better equipped than Sam and Frodo and had packed lunches to eat at the top, enjoying the spectacular view of the countryside around us, mount doom and the two Tama lakes.
The climb down was a lot easier, albeit still super long.  We walked through the forested area under the mountain on the way back, along the river, chatting and laughing and wondering if we would ever get back to the chalet.  Finally it came into sight, still an hour away but we made it back in the end.  I found the sauna that afternoon, and sat with my friend Anna for a looong time soothing our sore muscles.  I was super tired and after my long shower and a delicious BBQ dinner I needed my bed in a serious way.  We were off to Wellington the next morning bright and early!
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The Shire and Lake Tuapo Bungy

The town of Rotorua was on our list the next morning, a short drive and we were in this cute touristy spot, famous for its spas and thermal pools  with healing properties, a natural wonder that we got to see up close. Unfortunately this also makes everything in the vicinity smell like egg, so we had to endure that, as well.  I had the morning to explore as my tour of the movie set didn’t start till the afternoon.  I may have gone into EVERY touristy souvenir store that the town had to offer – and bought quite a few little trinkets – I can’t help it!! Cant buy too much though – I’m literally out of room in my backpack.  Oops.

Next stop was the Shire!! I got to visit the movie set for Lord of the Rings Trilogy – specifically the area where the Hobbits live, the Shire.  It is now a permanent tourist attraction after being torn down after the first three movies.  I was rebuilt for the Hobbit movie, and obviously there is a huge draw for fans to come and see where the film was made.  It was so cute!  The tour was expensive but definitely worth it for any movie geek – the guides were extremely informative, telling us about where the scenes were filmed and how they pulled off all the movie magic, including how they made the hobbits look so small compared to regular humans.  We saw the whole village, the party tree, and even got to have a beer at the Green Dragon Pub, which was authentic down to the last little detail – even the postings on the wall were perfectly in tune with the theme.  We drove home, tired but excited after our sunny day in the Shire.  Our dinner was at the local Irish pub, and some of us went out dancing and partying that night, it was a fun way to get to know the “other” side of my tripmates, the drunk and disorderly side!
Our next stop was the Tongariro National Park, but before then we had one more stop in Rotorua, the Whakarewarewa Thermal Village, a Maori site where families have lived for hundreds of years, taking advantage of the geothermal heat and the energy it provides them.  We learned more about the Maori culture and customs of the local trip while taking a tour around the village, where many tribe members actually still live.  There was also a cultural presentation, where we got to experience firsthand some traditional songs and dances, and another Haka (War Dance) as well. Fierce!  We drove onwards after that, visiting some waterfalls (horizontal Huka falls – forced through a channel and out the other side with incredible force, a natural wonder) and stopping for lunch in Tuapo, on the shores of Lake Tuapo which is the biggest lake in New Zealand.  It’s another super touristy town, I got to see some of the members of my group bungy jump off a cliff into a river.  I didn’t do it, I had other activities planned and have to watch my money cause four months of travel is sapping my bank account a wee bit!  It was cool to see everyone jump off and bungy down the cliff side, even touching the river below, making a splash!
We drove onwards that afternoon to Tongariro, the set of Mount Doom in the LOTR movie and site of our epic hike that we would tackle tomorrow.  It was a super busy day and I was happy to crash after dinner with a few glasses of wine in my belly.  🙂

 

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