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February 20th 2019
Published: February 21st 2019
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New Zealand - arriving in Queenstown was interesting as we swung through the mountains and bounced off the short runway before coming to a halt. First impressions were of a rugged, more varied and cooler country than where we had recently been.

Plus it was 3 hours ahead of Brisbane and had much longer evenings - a bit like an English summer.

We only had one night in Queenstown so we shot out and went up on the Skyline cable car up to Ben Lomond. Fortunately by the time we got up there the bungee jump was closed but we enjoyed the fantastic views over the scenic reserve and Lake Wakatipu.

Eating out that evening we were following the recommendation of our friends from back home Jan and John and visited Fergbuger- which looked from the outside to be primarily a takeaway burger joint - however from the constant queue that was there whenever we passed, it had to be the busiest and most profitable eatery in town and although I was taken there against my will it was a great choice. We managed to sit inside and watch the guys in the kitchen and they were nonstop the whole time and seemed to be having fun, the best burger in NZ I’m sure.

We liked it so much that we visited the Fergbakery next morning (next door) for breakfast before setting off to Manapouri for our cruise on the Doubtful Sound.

We got there with beautiful weather and sailed across the first lake after waiting for a couple who had somehow managed to start heading for the Milford Sound on a tour bus and had to be picked up and brought back.

Getting to the sound involved a 45 minute ferry across the lake, then 50 minutes on a bus across the worlds most expensive road. So expensive because the big stuff required to build the power station had to come in by boat and the bridges had to be built to carry the weight.

Once there, we jumped on the ship and were allocated our cabins - we were sharing with a young couple, one from Argentina and one from France, who were living in Singapore.

The Sound was beautiful and is the 2nd longest and the deepest Sound in NZ. We managed to go out into the Tasmin sea (not always possible)to an island with fur seals and seal pups as well as kayaking in the Sound itself. Spectacular.

Over dinner we met with a couple from England who were now living in Eire on a farm - both were keen photographers and one an ex professional so as you can guess Sue had long conversations with both and after a while I read my book. Lovely folk though.

Sue as I’m sure you know, books and arranges everything and I literally don’t know where I would be without her!

Although having said that we arrived at our next hostel in Wanaka to hear a party going on next door to the hostel at what could only be described as a Squat! Oops - but as we had paid we decided to try it at least for one night.

Wanaka town is set on the lake of the same name ( funnily enough) and it’s a beautiful setting with the lake and mountains all around. Big enough to have a little nightlife but it really is a place to use as a base for walking the lakes and mountains which is exactly what we did.

As we headed back to the hostel we seriously considered trying to find somewhere else to stay as we could hear the noise from the squat even before we got there! Having said almost bang on 11.00 it stopped - result.

Diamond Lake is a small lake at the end of lake Wakana so next day we set off to do the 3-4 hour walk around and then up and over Rocky Rocks - great views at various points on our way to the top & amazing clouds! Later we sat on Wanaka beach as the sun went down over the mountains- magical.

Leaving Wanaka the next morning we stopped at Roche Street & at the Rippon Winery with great views of the vines in front of Lake.
We were aiming for Haast - just outside Wanaka we picked up a couple that were hitchhiking and after checking we weren’t going the way they wanted we went that way anyway as it was only 15 minutes away - foolishly I made the mistake of saying once we got to the town that I could drop them where they were headed - another 20 minutes along a beautiful lake and which annoyingly we found out we were to pass this the next day! Anyhow they were very grateful that they got to their beach on their day off.

Once we got back heading in the right direction we got caught up in a traffic jam New Zealand style - the sheep were being herded along and across the road! Then onward to Mount Cook where we sat looking at the clouds rather than the mountain from the Hermitage Hotel (recommended by Linda and John), next to Sir Edmund Hilary’s climbing school - quick fact - he used Mount Cook to practice on before climbing Everest.

Back that evening to a place called Twizel before heading back the way we came the next morning to Haast ( apparently there were a few mountains in the way stopping us from going in a straight line) via the blue pools - so named because they were Green!!

We stopped in a motel there and went down to check out the menu for dinner, it seemed busy so we booked a table via the waitress. 7.30 came and the sun had come out so we decided to hit the beach and we wandered down to let them know - The look on the waitresses face was priceless - before I could say anything it was obvious she had forgotten the reservation. Having let her know we weren’t coming in now anyway and we’re heading for the beach she offered to extend the restaurant hours for us - and 2 hours later we were very grateful. Fantastic NZ service.

Franz Josef glacier was our next stop. We had booked a 3 hour glacier hike with a helicopter transfer to the ice. When we got there they weren’t sure if it would go as the weather was changing but fortunately it seemed ok so up we went.

Walking on and through a glacier was surprisingly easy and interesting - we had the gear including crampons which made it fairly easy to grip the ice as we wandered over and through various sized crevices, a great experience.

We followed this up with a bathe in the hot pools below, then a drive and a walk around Lake Matheson - after a recommendation from a BBC World Service reporter who was also on the glacier with us. At one point on the walk round you can see across to Mount Cook and once the water was still and the clouds had cleared it was reflected perfectly in the water - even I got a good shot.

Hurray today was the day I stopped driving for a bit - after dropping the car off in Greymouth we jumped on the trans alpine train to Christchurch. A relaxing journey across the narrowest part of NZ with beautiful views of mountains, rivers and fields.

One night only in Christchurch so once we had dumped our gear at the hostel- an old jailhouse that had been converted (we stayed in a cell), we went out to the Night Noodle Market which happened to be on this week. Plenty of foodstuffs and craft beer.

Spotting there was a music venue nearby we then went on to Boo Radleys bar where a couple of guys were playing ( one of whom sounded like Benjamin Clementine and the other......well not so good).

Back to jail and an early night - we were on the 7am train to Picton.

The train followed the east coast, the trains have a viewing carriage, open with no windows. We saw dolphins frolicking in the sea, not a usual sight on our Guildford Waterloo line.
As we drew into Picton we could see Philip & Pauline, some old neighbours from Olney frantically waving. We had a mad 45 minute catch up with a beer at the open air station bar before they caught our train on its journey back to Christchurch.
We stayed in a nice hotel that night recommended by Philip & Pauline & Sue wasn’t going anywhere! Just chillin. I managed to get out and had to go into an Irish pub with my uncles name (albeit spelt wrong). Seumus bar had the best Guinness I have had in the Southern Hemisphere.

Next morning was the Interlander ferry from Picton on the South Island to Wellington on the North Island.

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