South Island Tour – part 2

Friday (29 March) we got up early for the eight hour drive to Queenstown (yes Google maps say less than seven but they clearly don’t understand the terrain). It was a long way and we had planned to avoid such lengthy drives but the exceptional weather event earlier in the week had made us reorganise our plans.

Never mind, we set off in good spirits, armed with snacks and soft drinks. Clive and Richard did two hour shifts each to share the driving, stopping when it was convenient. There was great scenery along the way and we made a couple of comfort stops too….

Around 5pm we arrived at our waterfront apartment and checked in.

We found a good spot in the private car park to leave the car and headed up in the lift to the 5th floor. The apartment was large although a bit dated. As we had the double bedroom last time, Clive and Val took up residence in the main bedroom. They definitely got the better deal as it was a large king-size with ensuite. We ended up in the twin (with two small single beds) at the back with a separate bathroom. Never mind, at least we had two bathrooms….. But, you know what, when the views are this good from the window who cares?!?!

We got ourselves organised and headed along the waterfront for dinner – this time we chose a pub for simple fare of ribs, then returned to the apartment for pontoonies.

Saturday morning we had to meet our coach for a 7.11 am pick up for the trip to Milford Sound. We weren’t sure exactly where the coach was going to be (except outside the Crown Plaza which happened to be the next door hotel) so we went early and waited as numerous coaches passed us in both directions….eventually ours turned up…and we settled down for the long drive.

It was a great trip across the country with some special photo opportunities from mirror lakes to majestic mountains, valleys and ice above us. We even went through a tunnel….. Absolutely stunning. And the commentary was interesting and informative – we didn’t know that possums were such a pest and nuisance and, when he saw one splattered on the road, the driver made sure they were dead by turning them into squishums!!!

We arrived at Milford Sound and boarded our large catamaran. We were very lucky that this was another dry day.

We enjoyed our included lunch and then took up residence on the bow. We were very lucky to see some dolphins, fur seals and, of course, there is the obligatory getting soaked under the waterfalls. Or at least Richard and I did, Clive and Val ran for cover LOL. Another amazing time.

After the boat trip we re-boarded our coach for the long trip back. Some tourists had opted to fly back on a small plane instead (and there were spaces available) so we tried to tempt Clive but it was too rich for him, so we stayed on the coach as well. We dozed for a while until we reached our intermediary stop of Te Anau and had a coffee. Then we got back on and watched a movie The World’s Fastest Indian about a local guy who went to the US to take on the land speed record on a motorcycle. He came from Invercargill (a Scottish town at the bottom of the South Island) and as our driver’s name was Hamish we did wonder – he later confirmed that he actually was a distant relation. It was a great film with some really funny moments.

Arriving back into Queenstown the coach wasn’t stopping at our stop so we got off and walked for about 15 minutes to get back – which we all needed having spent 13 hours on the road. Back at the apartment we had a pasta meal and stayed home with our feet up.

Sunday morning we all headed through town to the Gondola station, once we had been to the ATM for more drinking vouchers. We enjoyed the ride up to the top and the spectacular views – and watched some crazy bungy jumpers and some paragliders. We also watched the luge but thought it looked a bit tame although Clive was tempted….. As we had booked onto a jet boat trip at 1pm we left them up there and, yes, Clive did do a few luge runs once we had left.

We walked down to the main wharf, were briefly entertained by Happy the singing sheepdog, before meeting our driver, kitted up with life jackets, and climbed on board.

The one hour trip was amazing….check out the photos. We have also put a video up of the trip on Richard’s Facebook page. It was really good fun and an adrenaline rush.

On our return to the wharf we enjoyed the underwater observatory into the lake and then wandered down the waterfront, checking out the little black ducks, just enjoying the sun. So we visited the floating bar and watched the ‘sharks’ come and go. They speed along, go under, and then jump out of the water. Looked fantastic! We did enquire about taking one each, but at $154 for 15 minutes seemed a bit steep….maybe next time?!?!

Returning to the apartment we all got together and shared our adventures. We then headed back into town for dinner and, this evening, we fancied a curry so chose a nice-looking Indian restaurant just set back from the main drag. The food was lovely and we really enjoyed it. We chatted to a Scottish guy on the next table who decided to swear and become loud about British politics (despite the fact that he had lived in New Zealand for many years). This was to the annoyance of other diners so we asked him to calm down which he did for a while, then got excited again LOL. So, once we had finished our dinner, we exited left and hit a few hostelries on our way back.

Monday morning and we headed off in the car towards Dunedin. Again there was some spectacular scenery along the way, but different. This is a fruit growing region so we saw lots of farms, including vineyards. There was more of a volcanic look to the rock and lots of pasture lands with kale, sheep, deer, veal calves etc.

Arriving into Dunedin we checked into our hotel and headed out in the car towards the coast.

We admired the spectacular beach at St Clare – with only a few crazy surfers around – and had a nice lunch. The wind was blowing strongly at this point and it had turned very cold.

Back to the hotel we left the car in the secure overnight parking spot reserved for us and walked into town. We went past the Salvation Army monument, numerous churches, Art Deco buildings and then to the train station.

Afterwards we decided to stay out and headed to the main centre of town, the Octogen. We sat on the pavement (wrapped up against the cold) having a beer and watched the world go by but it was very very quiet and we were a bit disappointed to be honest. So we headed back towards the hotel and found a lovely restaurant. The dinner was superb, in fact, probably one of the best we had had on our whole trip.

After dinner we went into the neighbouring casino for a little flutter….I spent a whole $10 on the slot machines and walked away with $20 a little while later. Clive tried the roulette table and, feeling very tired, we said our goodnights and left them there. We watched TV for a little while in our room before having an early night.

Tuesday morning we had breakfast in the hotel, checked out, and picked up the car. We then headed along the coast to Brighton (yes another one) to see if we could see any seals or penguins that reside on this wild coast. Sadly our head count was zero!

We then drove cross country towards the airport, hoping for a final bakery/cafe visit for coffee. But we found nowhere open….. Apart from Dunedin’s suburbs the larger district is very remote and isolated. Eventually we were almost at the airport so we filled up with petrol at the nearest village – still no cafe open – and drove towards the terminal building. At this point Clive didn’t believe me that this was a regional airport as all he could see was small private planes landing!!! Well, Dunedin only has one airport (I checked) so this was definitely right LOL. We returned the car and headed into the terminal, we checked our bags, and finally got that coffee. We were a bit early but, hey ho, nothing wrong with that.

After a couple of hours we went through to the gate and boarded the plane. It was a good flight and we landed in Auckland on time at 5.40 pm. We recovered our luggage and now it was time to say goodbye. Clive and Val were booked into a hotel near the airport for the night, prior to their flight to Bali the following day. We, however, were returning to Morphie. So we said our sad farewells and headed into Auckland on the Sky Bus.

At the main wharf we had to wait for a ferry across to Bayswater so had a glass of wine and some nibbles in Shuckers. We got back on board Morphie around 7.30 pm and were pleased that she was in good order and very happy to be back onboard. We quickly unpacked and had an early night….

Wednesday morning we had a lay in. We had been on holiday for almost six weeks and were both feeling tired….so no schedule! Later on I did the first of the South Island blogs while Richard did all the laundry. We kept ourselves occupied all day and had an early night after dinner in the cockpit, despite the rain.

Today, Thursday (4 April), Richard is reorganising the boat in preparation for going back to sea, ie reinstating the ‘garage’ in the stern cabin. I’m blogging again and thinking about the provisioning we need to do tomorrow…. So no rest for the crew of the good ship Morpheus.

Bye for now