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.

Puzzling World, Queenstown, Te Anau, Milford Sound, Queenstown

Things that make you go mmm...

Things that make you go "mmm..."

The Ferg loves you. Before we came to New Zealand about five people independently recommended a burger shop in Queenstown. Not just any burger shop. Fergburger! I don’t think I’ve ever used an exclamation mark in earnest on this blog – that’s how good Fergburger is. It’s the burger shop so nice we went there twice. Seriously. Good. Burgers.

Life before Ferg now seems just a distant memory – but I can tell you that if I wasn’t so busy raving about Fergburger I’d be raving about Puzzle World. Wanaka’s star attraction is the self proclaimed capital of eccentricity. The illusion rooms are something to behold – the chamber of faces is quite bizarre, the holographic artworks are impressive, the tilting room was nauseatingly intriguing and the perspective room made for a great photo opportunity.


Following the illusion section we took an “amazing” walk through Puzzling World’s outdoor maze. The idea is to find four coloured towers at each extremity. The maze contains 5km of pathways – many of them are frustrating dead ends. The signs say the average maze goer walks up to 3km in order to complete the task. The average finish time for the challenges (there are two of them) is one hour and thirty minutes – we were done in about 50 minutes.

Ouch

Ouch

Then it was time for some funny photos on the grounds – and some purchases in the puzzle shop – including this Turkish puzzle ring.

Lord of the Rings?

Lord of the Rings?

From Wanaka we hit the highway to Te Anau – via the aforementioned Fergburger. Our final destination was another lakeside holiday park. Oh, woe is us. Holiday accommodation by a lake at every turn. This one was an A frame cabin that turned out to be a chillibin – that’s kiwi for eski. Their inadequately supplied warm linen meant this wasn’t the best night’s sleep we’d had all trip. We dined as a local Italian place that looked like it had the same décor it was fitted out with about 30 years ago – just with some red corrugated iron nailed onto the counter. They did have a vintage coffee grinder which was pretty special – it was sitting behind the specials chalkboard though, and for some reason I didn’t take a photo of it. I did get to listen to it in a special demonstration. The pasta we ordered wasn’t great, but the brie, chicken and cranberry pizza was very nice.

An early morning was in order because we were booked on a cruise of Milford Sound – some two and a half hours’ drive away. At least that’s what we were told. We got there pretty early. And sat in the terminal. And waited. The cruise advertised a “continental breakfast” – which turned out to be a box of muesli. And some toast. It wasn’t Fergburger, but it was healthy. The cruise through a glacier carved waterway was something different – the coastline, or cliffline, was fringed with waterfalls, colonies of baby seals and impressive snow topped peaks. It was worth the two hour trip – which included a rudimentary tunnel carved through the base of one of the fairly large mountains. On the way back we stopped at “The Chasm” a rainforest fringed waterfall.

Lunch, or brunch, was a bowl of wedges with satay sauce at the Olive Tree café in Te Anau. Their coffee was passable. Dinner tonight was a second round of Fergburger, back in Queenstown, where we’re staying at the Alpine Ridge Holiday Apartments. They’re nice, and once again, they’re overlooking a lake.

Franz Josef, Fox Glacier, Wanaka

Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away, now my pain it is a here to stay… ok enough Beatles inspired parody blogging. The Beatles were on high rotation in a café yesterday – so I’ve got them on the brain now. I wonder if a whole generation of children have no idea how to spell beetle thanks to that band.
I am very sore today. Sorer than I’ve been since yesterday. I think on the pain scale yesterday scored higher. But I haven’t really walked around much today. The cause of all this pain and misery? Walking. I don’t know why people pay money to be tortured. Robyn and I made that mistake yesterday. We paid money to walk the Fox Glacier – currently renowned through all the lands as New Zealand’s deadliest glacier thanks to two silly Australians who ignored a bunch of warning signs to get up close and personal. The fact that a corpse retrieval operation was underway should have served as a warning.
Actually, truth be told I enjoyed the experience despite the burning pain in my legs. Or at least I enjoyed the destination and the sense of achievement. The four hour walk involved scaling 700 steps up a hillside before fitting “crampons”, special ice walking spikes, and trekking over hand cut stairs in the glacier. That was cool. Actually, it was cold. Our guide made sure the experience was a didactic one – I now know more about the ins and outs of glaciers than I ever thought I’d need, or want to. I can tell you that this glacier is currently advancing – not retreating – at a rate of 20cm a day. It moves forward 30cm but 10cm a day melts.
Now, after the four hour walk and five hour drive that followed, I think I could be forgiven for curling up into the fetal position and moaning for a day. But I’m not that kind of guy. We spent last night at Lake Outlet Park, Wanaka – possibly the most picturesque park we’ve stayed in to date. The park in Franz Josef offered terrific glacier views. Lake Outlet Park overlooks an amazing mountain fringed lake – like so many other amazing mountain fringed lakes we’ve passed. So it’s a close thing. Today we’re off to Puzzling World – conceptually Robyn’s favourite shop/theme park in all the land. We’ll see if it works out that way…
Yesterday’s drive from Franz Josef to Wanaka included passing over a lot of one lane bridges, which I still don’t understand, and interestingly named creeks and culverts. The best creek name we crossed was “Random Creek” – seriously, who names these things. There was a Joe Creek, a Roy Creek, a Canavans Creek, a ubiquitous “Six Mile Creek”, a “Chink creek” and a “Bishops Error Culvert”… I’m sure each creek, like each person, has a story.
In closing, if perchance you happen to undertake the Fox Glacier walk – literally following in our footsteps – and you have not yet partaken of your morning coffee – do not, under any circumstances, attempt to receive this fix from the Hobnail Café attached to the company. There are plenty of other cafes in the vicinity – don’t make our mistake twice.
The internet connection here is pretty patchy – but I am trying to put some of the photos from the glacier walk and all the lakes we drove past on the way online. Stay tuned.