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Published: December 19th 2008
Well after an easy 3 hour flight from Sydney we arrived and picked up our hire car. The afternoon was overcast but we decided to take a drive out of town and get the gondola at the base of the Port Hills up to mount Cavendish which still showed great views over Christchurch and the volcanic outcrops of the Banks Penninsular. We could even see New Brighton peer in the distance. Good chips at the top, sorry our background always haunts us! Mark and Ian wave to ever gondola that went past, this was a tradition that started in Singapore!
The next day we got up early and set off to travel from the east coast over to the west. From Christchurch the route follows the Waimakariri river to Sheffield and then on to Springfield. Just as the good old "Rough Guide" suggested we stopped at the Canterbury Caters Shop in Sheffield to sample a delicious home made pie and the amazing price of just over £1. I chose steak and mushroom, yum yum! The weather was overcast but it didn't matter it gave the lush greenery a kind of jungle feel. I couldn't get over how quiet the road
was, this is supposed to be a busy time of year and we would go for miles barely seeing a van or car. We passed through Kura Tawhiti which to the untrained eye looked like a load of boulders but this was one of the locations used for The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe.
The wild flowers are amazing, I couldn't get over the number of wild purple and pink lupins. The boys thought I was mad to keep going on about them but I made a stop to take some photos. By the time we arrived at Arthurs Pass it was chucking it down so we only hopped out for the visitor centre and to use the loos. A couple of freight trains went passed and we carried on. The pass was named after Arthur Dobson a civil engineer who "discovered it". We carried on to the Otira Viaduct and whilst stopping for a look the Kea's turned up, a green mountain parrot which Beccy had told us to look out for. Needless to say Mark got quite friendly with one! We pressed on to Hokitika, our stop off, and arrived for the heavens to open. We
rounded off the day though with a delicious meal in Cafe De Paris.
We left Hokitika, still in the pouring rain and set off down the west coast heading for the famous glaciers, Franz Josef and Fox . Once there it became obvious that we weren't going to get any kind of meaningful trip in because the weather was just too severe. The children didn't mind doing the tourist thing of looking in the shops and taking lots of snack stops though.
We had booked a family room at the local youth hostel which was spotless and had the obligatory cat much to Daniel's delight. Next day we pressed on down the coast, Ian was now feeling so much better and fears of major tummy worries were now behind us. Even the sun had come out as we reached a place at which to stop, Bruce Bay. It still ceases to amaze me how empty this country feels, again we were only one of a handful of people to stop here in an hour. Mark found what we think was some fools gold and some mother of pearl on the beech.
From here we stopped next at
Knight's Point, a beautiful look-out point over the Tasmin sea famous for it's Fiordland crested penguins, but alas none were to be spotted by us. I was just beginning to get worried about the lack of petrol in the car when we arrived in Haast. You really have to think about this as you literally go miles without any civilisation. Haast had the most windiest beech I have ever been on and the strangest guy serving in a shop that looked like he saw trade maybe once in a bluemoon! From Haast we pushed on again and made another stop at Thunder Creek Falls to view the waterfalls.
Our stop tonight was Wanaka which we really took too. It was back to modern civilisation but in a comfortable yet relaxed way. Again the hostel was clean and the girl on reception was from England and very friendly. We dashed out for an evening meal and again thanks to the recommendations of the “Rough Guide” ate at “Relishes” were I had locally caught salmon and Ian local cod. We all had main courses, puddings and drinks and the bill was between £50-£60, we could get used to this! The local
pinot noir was yummy and Ian enjoyed a pilsner or two from the local micro brewery.
The next day we booked a jet boat ride on lake Clutha as we thought it better to make hay whilst the sun shone, which we couldn't guarantee down in Queenstown, looking at the forecast for the next few days. It was great fun and I think I got wet the most. Interesting to see where gold had been stripped from the hill sides leaving scars where the rock had been exploded out.
From Wanaka we headed off in the late afternoon down to Queenstown to a bit more of a luxurious stop for 3 nights in a hotel overlooking Queenstown Bay.
Today we wandered into Queenstown to suss out all the activities and decide what we would do whilst we were here. I am pleased to say the children are too young to bungy or canyon jump so that ruled those out! So we took a leisurely ride up the cable car up Bob's Peak which had amazing views from the top of Queenstown and The Remarkables mountain ranges. There is also another luge ride at the top after a ride in the chair lift which we all had 2 goes on. Sorry Rachel this one beats Singapore - how big headed does that sound! (sorry). We stopped and watched the bungy jumpers and paragliders and then headed back down for a spot of lunch and to book our trips. We really wanted to fly down to Milford Sound and the fjords but the weather foreacast and time are against us for the next two days. So we booked the coach ride down tomorrow there and back and have booked a hot air balloon flight for dawn on Sunday morning, fingers crossed!
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