New Zealand: Reflections

As our trip comes to a close – we fly out today – Robyn and I have been doing some early post trip analysis. Here are our thoughts on our trip.

Best Coffee
I’ve written a lot about coffee so it seems only fitting this is the first cab off the rank.
N: Bureau de Cafe, Queenstown
R: Bureau de Cafe, Queenstown
Unfortunately I didn’t take a photo of it – but honourable mentions go to the Sugar cafe in Kaikoura, Gusto in Picton and Coffee Culture in Christchurch.

Gusto, Picton

Worst Coffee

There have been some stinkers on this trip. It’s hard to pick. But here goes.

N: The Why Not Cafe, Kaikoura, I’ll tell you why not – the coffee seemed to be exothermic. It got hotter as time wore on, the coffee itself was untastable because our taste buds were scalded off.

R: Piazza coffee at the Hermitage Hotel/Edmund Hillary Centre at Mount Cook.

Best Budget Accommodation
N: Top 10 Holiday Park, Franz Josef. Talk about million dollar views. It worked out at $42.50 pp so that’s value. Plus there were bunk beds in the room so we could have been even more efficient.
R: Holiday home at Hanmer Springs. Worked out at $30pp and was clean, well equipped and very comfortable.

Best Accommodation

We’ve stayed in some nice places as well as some budget places. Here are our top picks.

N: Living Space, Christchurch. It was quirky, colourful and handy to the CBD for strolls and coffees.

R: Breakfree Alpine Village, Queenstown. The views of the lake from the balcony were stunning and it was a spacious one bedroom apartment handy to town.

Worst Accommodation

N & R: Te Anau Holiday Park – the lakeside A-Frame cabins look cute and cozy, but inside were anything but. It was cold. We were supplied inadequate blankets and the bed was like a marshmallow.

Dishonorable mentions: Picton Holiday Park – full of smokers, poor facilities and dangerous cliffs.

Best Breakfast

N: Sugar Cafe, Kaikoura – Big breakfast – venison sausages, hashbrowns, bacon, eggs and a terrific relish.

R: Sugar Cafe, Kaikoura – maybe it was the seal swim induced appetite, but the Sugar Cafe scored again for their eggs benedict – Robyn says it’s the best she’s ever had.

Best Lunch

N & R:  Fergburger.

Honourable mentions go to the Skyrail buffet, and the Honey Pot Cafe for their sensational toasted sandwiches.

Best Dinner

N & R: Bailies Pub, Christchurch. Robyn had Lamb Shanks, Nathan had a sirloin cooked to tender perfection.

Honourable mention – the hot rock dinner at Hanmer Springs.

Best Activity

N: Seal swim, Kaikoura. Seals are cool.

R: The Skyline experience – paragliding, luge and lunch. What a winning combination.

Honourable mentions go to horse riding, puzzling world and the jet boating part of our white water rafting adventure.

Best Drive

N: Hanmer Springs to Kaikoura – the rest of the car was asleep but these picturesque mountain roads were fun to drive.

R: Te Anau to Milford Sound – lots of scenic stops on the way, a tunnel through a mountain and the constant presence of a glacier in the rear view mirror on the trip back made this a drive to remember. As did the early morning start.

Honourable mentions – Queenstown to Lake Tekapo for the Lord of the Rings style rolling mountains and craggy rocks, Lake Tekapo to Mount Cook for the cows and roadkill, and the Wanaka to Queenstown stretch.

Best City/Town

N: Christchurch – lots of cafes, churches, old buildings and a comfortable city feel.

R: Hanmer Springs – a cute little village in the mountains.

Honourable mentions – all the rest.

Most Memorable Person

N & R: The grumpy horse riding lady.

Most Memorable Day

N: Picton – simply because Robyn almost fell off a cliff. I won’t be forgetting that in a hurry.

R: Queenstown – paragliding, luge, lunch, and gondola ride – plus the best coffee all trip. A winning combination.

Honourable mention: Fox Glacier. I’ll never forget the pain in my legs during that walk – or the sense of satisfaction drinking a cold beer on our return. It was all worth it though – walking on a glacier is kind of cool.

Most Picturesque Location

N: Mount Cook

R: Lake Tekapo, Church of the Good Shepherd.

Honourable mentions: Milford Sound and Kaikoura.

We’ll add pictures and links when we get back to Australia – right now it’s off to breakfast.

Lake Tekapo, Mount Cook

Today is national bad similie day. I’ve just declared it. Hence this post will be filled with them – like a flea circus on the back of a mangy dog.

Our little car that could, a red kia Picanto, chews through fuel like a fire breather chews through kerosene – quickly and in spectacular fashion.

We made the 100km journey from Lake Tekapo (a quaint lakeside village) to Mount Cook (New Zealand’s highest mountain) in double quick time – like tinned food on pension day…

Actually, we were slowed unexpectedly by a chain of cattle at muster time. These cows – we guessed there were about 200 of them (a fifty/fifty split between adults and calves) – were travelling between paddocks – along the road. We spent some time travelling in cattle class – and some further comic release was provided when an add for a local butcher came on over the radio. We promptly wound the window up so as not to scare the locals into some sort of frenzied stampede.

Mount Cook is a glacial behemoth. It has killed over 130 people. So deadly is it that the Visitor Information Centre includes a book listing those who have died – and a video of a recent rescue effort that ended with the untimely demise of the rescued climber.

The base of the mountain is also home to the Sir Edmund Hillary centre – a museum dedicated to the kiwi mountaineer.

The coffee at the Edmund Hillary centre’s cafe was bad – like a similie without a corroborative noun. How hard can it be to make a palatable coffee?

The cattle were still lowing on the way back. En route I was surprised by the amount of roadkill on New Zealand roads.

The only billboards we’ve seen on our travels have been for road safety – and it seems that sentiment doesn’t extend to animals. The distance between Mount Cook and Lake Tekapo was 106km. On our journey we counted 136 individual pieces of roadkill. Birds, possums, rabbits, unidentifiable fur balls.  That’s a road kill index of 1.28 animals per kilometre. I’m sure that’s high. In fact, there was a 20km stretch about 10 minutes out of Mount Cook that accounted for 48 pieces of roadkill – a significantly higher roadkill index of 2.4. Is there anywhere else that boasts a figure like that? If so, I haven’t seen it.

The township of Lake Tekapo is a small town on a big lake. There’s not a whole lot of exciting stuff there. There is a Peppers Resort – which is where we stayed. Our track record with Peppers hasn’t been great. It was a Peppers Resort that lost our booking on our wedding night – almost leaving us sleeping in a stable… before upgrading us to the one available luxury room. This Peppers experience was much better. On our second night in Lake Tekapo we dined in house at the restaurant, and enjoyed a fine sirloin steak and superb lamb rump.

One of the township’s famous attractions is the Church of the Good Shepherd – an old stone chapel built right on the lake. We spent a bit of time at twilight last night taking photos in what was pretty photogenic light.

Some photos were more serious than others

Some photos were more serious than others

The chapel is a working church – shared by the Anglicans, Presbyterians and Catholics in town – outside the chapel there’s a little letterbox styled post – asking for donations. There’s no need to pass the plate around if your church is a tourist attraction.

Heres one we prepared earlier

Here's one we prepared earlier

Actually, this afternoon we toured the Christchurch Cathedral – having only seen the outside on our first stop. They “encourage” a five dollar donation, and those looking for a “truly memorable” experience can donate a church chair for just $320.

As I’ve already pre-empted – like a US president’s foreign policy – this morning our trip came full circle – back to Christchurch. We’re at the Off the Square boutique motel which is the first place we’ve stayed to offer free broadband. Tonight’s dinner was probably the best of the trip. Bailies Pub, just around the corner from the hotel and the cathedral, cooked up a sensational sirloin steak with mashed potato. And Robyn’s lamb shanks were cooked to perfection.

Queenstown

New Zealand is said to be the adventure capital of the world. Venture capitalists in New Zealand are no doubt called upon to fund their fair share of adventure ventures… ok enough word play.

So far on our NZ adventure we’ve white water rafted, jet boated, horse rided, seal snorkelled, glacier walked, and puzzle worlded. That’s a lot of adventure – but in our mind, not really enough. Well in Robyn’s mind not nearly enough. Holidays for me are more about food, coffee and comfort – hence the flavour of many posts on this blog.

If New Zealand is the adventure capital of the world then Queenstown is the adventure capital of New Zealand. For good reason. Everywhere you look there is adventure to be had. Our day out in Queenstown was probably the perfect blend of our different tastes in holiday experiences – with most of the fun being had out of Skyrail – certainly Queenstown’s crowning attraction in both the geographical and metaphorical sense. Skyrail, for those who came in late, starts with a gondola ride up the mountain in Queenstown’s CBD. On top of the hill you’ll find bungy jumping, paragliding, luging, and all the adventure you can poke a stick at. Well, those three pretty much covered it actually. But that’s not all.

But wait, theres more

But wait, there's more

There’s also the best buffet restaurant I’ve come across in a long time – any buffet dessert bar offering creme brulee, chocolate mouse, almond tart and tiramisu is on a winner in my books.

Just desserts

Just desserts

The savoury element was just as impressive.
After our lunch settled it was time to hit the slopes – for some luge action. I’m not big on heights, and chairlifts are right up there with things I don’t want to go on, but the ride was worth it. The luge was fun.

But it wasn’t enough for Robyn – her Picton cliff face experience had left her with a lemming like desire for more – hanging on wasn’t enough. She was determined to successfully throw herself off a cliff – so paragliding ticked all the boxes. I kept my feet on the ground as the dutiful photographer/sidekick/husband that I am while my wife joined a hirsuite German named Leno for a rapid descent.

The Leno show

The Leno show

Lets go fly a kite...

Let's go fly a kite...

I was pretty relieved to meet her back at the gondola after her little jaunt – and with our need for adventure behind us we hit the little red car and made our way to Lake Tekapo – passing the types of rolling hills made famous by Lord of the Rings.

There are, as always, many photos in our New Zealand picasa album – so many, in fact, that I’ve had to start a second.