No time for jet lag
You’ve already had a bit of an introduction to our exciting 2-wheel adventures in New Zealand (more on that in the next instalment), now for some 4-wheel adventures with the wonderful Will and Nicky.
After a knackering but nice flight and stop-over in Singapore where we got to see up close and personal the wonderful Super Tree Grove in the Gardens by the Bay park (even daring ourselves to walk along the sky walkway which we managed much to our amazement), we landed into Chistchurch after what can only be described as a ‘bumpy’ flight – nearly spilt my gin and tonic – dreadful! We went straight from there (after sorting out a bit of a hoo-ha with the flight reservations which I won’t bore you with now) to the Maui rental company to pick up Kiwi Dieter. All very straightforward and, as it was very similar in size and configuration to Aussi Dieter, we were soon up and running. A quick supermarket stop to get the essentials (a bit of food and lots of beer/wine) we went as far as Fairlie and our first overnight stop. Nothing much to talk about to be honest as we were dead on our feet and just wanted a bit of nosh, a couple of drinks and then out for the count, but it gave us a good opportunity to get the waggon set up ready for meeting the kids the next day.
The journey to Queenstown was lovely with all the sights that we hoped we would get to see in NZ in pretty much one hit – stunning mountains, beautiful lakes, expansive vistas, a glimpse of Mount Cook, twisty roads and some tempting vineyards (Cloudy Bay no less) but the key attraction was the lovelies that awaited us in Queenstown itself. Once we had met up, a lovely bit of lunch on the side of the lake and also a famous Ferg burger whilst we had the chance to catch up on their epic adventure along the Milford Trek – probably one of the best trekking (or tramping as they say in these parts) in the world. And time to get to planning the next few days – these guys don’t mess about you know.
Vineyards and bikes – hang on, we’ve been there before…
Although nowhere near as developed as Malborough, the Otago region has some very nice wines and vineyards and our base in Wanaka gave us opportunity to give it a quick sample. After hiring some bikes in the town, we set off to do a quick trail around part of the lake (taking in a quick swim along the way as you do) we then put the goodness of exercise to one side to concentrate on finding some booze. Although very enjoyable, it was a long cycle for not a lot of reward. The first winery was a bit disappointing, the next brewery a lot more rewarding and the final vineyard very beautiful to look at but lacking in opportunityto actually quaff the stuff. Not quite as our Barossa Valley experience had been but well worth the effort – especially after we had handed the bikes in, recovered our painful backsides and found a bar where we could deaden the pain.
Our next biking adventure came a couple of days later and this was an absolute beauty. The West Coast Wilderness Way runs from Greymouth to Ross and we did a 60km stretch from Kumara to Hokitika. The trails were quite breathtaking – winding in and out of forests, along open pastures, along riverways and through wooded waterways, you could almost (only just though) forgive some of the punishing ascents required.
It was certainly a great sense of achievement to have finished it and, although a breeze for the fit ones, us ‘olds’ hung on in there as best we could. Highlight of the day, though, has to be the chance to have a lovely refreshing dip in a lake en-route – especially this photo of Tim retreating to be in the photo after setting the camera to auto…
To add to the mix we even managed to have a kayak experience at Franz Josef (of glacier fame) and even though it absolutely poured with rain and blew a hooley, we couldn’t fail to be amazed by the beauty of the rain forest environment and reflect on the massive variety of landscapes we had encountered in a very few days. We were rewarded for our efforts in a very lovely dip in the hot spas before retiring for the day for beers and wine back at Kiwi Dieter. Fantastic.
Tunnels, planes and lakes
Some interesting bits along the way to tell you about. On our ride from Te Anau to Milford Sound and back, we had to negotiate the Homer Tunnel. Opened in 1953, it’s only less than a mile long but runs at a 1:10 gradient which, when you are descending into the depths, feels very intimidating indeed. It wasn’t that long ago that it was made into a sealed road and up until that time it was the longest gravel surfaced tunnel in the world. Much preferred the upwards journey on the way back to be honest.
Talking of sealed roads, it has been a source of continued amusement to us both to break out into the Dolly Parton song ‘Lucile’ but replace the lyrics with ‘new seal’ which is the Kiwi way of saying newly tarmac’d or repaired road. Altogether now.. ‘New seal, new seal, new seal, new seeeaall, we’re beggin on you please don’t my man (road)’ Little things…. However, we later realised that the words were actually Jolene not Lucile and that we should have gone for the Kenny Rogers song but that was far too boring so we improvised accordingly. We won’t be auditioning for The Voice anytime soon.
Also quite an amusing sign which I failed to be able to take a photo of, and which must feature high in the ‘no shit Sherlock’ category of signs, was one that pointed left to a cemetry with a sign directly under it saying ‘no exit.’ Hmmm.
On a brighter (but felt at times a little related) note, we had a very exciting encounter with Ivan. Ivan was quite a character who ran a seaplane flights business on lake Te Anau. He had a certain wild charm and humour about him. From Tim’s initial description, I had in mind the drunken pilot from Independence Day that flew into the alien ship shouting ‘up yours’. Thankfully he seemed sober enough on our meeting but was quick with the jokes. ‘ How long have you been in this business then’ asks I, entering into polite conversation as we were going through the pre flight safety routine of strapping on a life vest and jumping in the plane. ‘What do you mean, this is my first job’ replies Ivan laughing… Actually he was very professional but he did like to banter and he gave us a very interesting tour of the fjordland and it was so cool to take off and land on the water (without getting wet) – especially with all other visitors watching.
Another gorgeous lake (amongst many) was Lake Tekapo famed for it’s beauty and also for its lovely little church with a massive picture window – no need for stained glass here. It reminded me so much of a similar church in Port Douglas in Australia. Stunning. There was also a lovely statue of a collie dog which was erected in thanks to man’s best friend without whom settlers and farmers would never have been able to managed the massive herds of sheep across such vast areas of difficult terrain. Really quite a lovely tribute I thought.
Anyway, more on our 2-wheel travels on the north-bound stretch of the trip next time!