Friday, January 28, 2011

Eat, Pray, Love

Ok, so I'm probably a bit late with this post, but I don't get to the movies much, usually I see them on a flight to somewhere. But this movie got me thinking on a number of levels.

First it made me feel a lot better that I'm not the only person with a box of travel brochures, articles and other items under my bed, of places I want to see and experience before I die (or get too old).

Then it made me add another location to my list. I'm a sucker for food, and OMG is Italian food Divine. Add the history and you have the perfect destination.

Finally it got me thinking what would be my three destinations if I decided to drop everything for a year and immerse myself in three locations. Mine wouldn't follow the same theme (except for the eat component), but Italy now of course, Cambodia and I'm not sure of my last location but maybe New York City.

What would your three be? I'd love to hear!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Wanaka and the drive back to Christchurch

January 2011

After the bus got back to Te Anau at 1 pm, we got in the car and headed off to Wanaka, stopping at the Cardona Hotel for a drink in what they call the "cute" beer garden.

Continued our drive and checked into the Wyhdam resort, which is just out of town on Mt Aspiring Road.

Walked through town and around the lake, stopping for a waffle cone ice cream at Tangos.

We enjoyed a superb dinner at The Reef, overlooking Wanaka Lake. Venison for me and the surf and turf for DH. If the weathers good, eat outside as the view is much better from this point.

We had a late breakfast the next morning  in town at Relishes Cafe, where predictably we both had the pancakes (warm, fluffy and packed with berries).

We then continued cour drive back to Christchurch, stopping at Subway in Geraldine for a quick lunch and arriving in Christchurch 5.5 hours after leaving Wanaka.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Doubtful Sound, New Zealand

January 2011

Just as our Milford Sound trip, we did Doubtful sound with Real Journeys. Unlike Milford, there are not as many options for Doubtful sound, and even less that offer overnight on Doubtful.

We were picked up from our accommadation in Te Anau and taken on the 20 minute drive to Lake Manapouri. Once there we picked up the tickets for our trip and had our lunch (BYO unless you pre-pay for the picnic pack) waiting for the boat.

We caught the 1 hour ferry ride across the lake to Deep Cove, before catching another bus down to where our boat will be. We stopped off on the way to catch the spectacular view of Doubtful Sound and was informed that they hadn't been able to see this view for 2 weeks!

We boarded the Fiorland Navigator, and then headed out to the sea entry to check out the seal colony. To our delight we were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the Little Blue Penguins, about six of them bobbing out in the water.

We then headed up the Bradshaw Sound to dock for the night at Precipice Cove. We enjoyed the soup course (first time in my life and probably the last!), before doing the evening activities of either kayaking or the 18 seater Zodiac boat, DH and I choose the Zodiac!

Shortly after our activity finished we enjoyed a buffet dinner of lamb, green lipped mussels and hot smoked salmon, the food was pretty good until we got into the Pavlova debate (that is who invented it, Australia or New Zealand).  We enjoyed a short nature talk with slides after dinner before heading off to bed.

Woke up about 6:30 am when the motor starts back up! Had a good buffet breakfast before heading outside to catch the great view.

Travel down to the end of Halls Arm and enjoyed a 5 minute Sound of Silence, no motor, no noise, just the birds and the water.

Arrive back at the dock, before starting our trip back to Te Anau.

I highly recommend this trip, which may have been aided by the great weather we had. These pictures do not lie, it was a spectacular experience.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Milford Sound, New Zealand

January 2011

We decided to do our Milford Sound tour with Real Journeys. There are many providers to choose from, but we chose Real Journeys as they had a bus service from Te Anau, which enabled both of us to enjoy the trip down to Milford Sound (as you'll see soon the drive is almost as spectacular as the sound itself).

We were picked up from our accommodation at 7:30 am in a large bus with windows in the ceiling. We stopped at the Mirror Lakes for pictures, but the wind was up a bit so they weren't a real mirror, but you got the idea.

We boarded the Wander for our 2.5 hours on the Milford Sound, which goes right out to the sea entry. Unfortunately the weather wasn't the best, it was overcast so we never got to see Mitre peak and there was an overall drab feeling, but I enjoyed our trip and could see why people recommended only a day cruise not the overnight trip.

We got back on the bus and started the drive back to Te Anau (about 1.5 hours in good weather), stopping for a 20 minute walk at The Chasm.

We also got to see plenty of the cheeky Kea here.

Stopped again just after the Homer Tunnel to do the Homer Alpine Nature walk, in the pouring rain. I would just skip this 20 minute walk and take pictures from the car park, but that could be the rain talking.

We finished off enjoying the view on the remaining drive home, arriving back in Te Anau at 4 pm.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Te Anau and the drive to Milford

January 2011

We started the long drive to Te Anau from Christchurch very early on New Years Day, it was a great time to be on the road.

We stopped at The Church of Good Shepard at Lake Tekepo, one of my favourite places to stop, about 2.5 hours out of Christchurch.

We drove along a bit further and were greatly surprised to see Mount Cook in clear view! (I would find out on our drive back that this was in fact not a common site).

We continued our drive through Omarama, Cormwell and Kingston, stopping at Garston for a late lunch (which was a great find, with yummy burgers and pies).

We arrived tin Te Anau, the gateway to the Fiorlands about 9 hours after leaving Christchurch, not bad considering.

So what's there to do, eat and see in Te Anau?

We'll most people use it as a base to do some amazing walks and see the beautiful sounds in the area, but in summary of what we did, ate and saw.

Stay: The Te Anau YHA, in a double room with en suite. Nothing to write home about, but cheep, clean and had a great kitchen.

Fat Duck - great good hear, we had the duck special and the fish of the day (monkfish) and thought it was a great meal

Naturally Fiorlands Pizza - give this place a miss. The food is average, the service poor and it took a long time to get our food.
Miles Better Pies - great coffee and pies. We had a breakfast and a lunch here. At lunch the line was long but it was quick and efficient. make sure you try the venison pie.
Moose Bar and Restaurant - we didn't eat here, but it was a good place to get a drink overlooking the lake.

Like I've said Te Anau is a common base for the many walks in the area, including the famous Milford track. It also acted as a base for us for Milford and Doubtful sounds. But we also had opportunity to check out the Te Anau Wildlife Centre, where they rehabilitate the many native New Zealand birds. It was great to see the wood pigeon, cheeky kea and the rare Takahe (which was feeding at the time).

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Hanmer Springs New Zealand

December 2010

The drive from Kaikoura was scenic, and we arrived in a busy Hanmer Springs. We spent about an hour enjoying the thermal pools, which as busy as it seemed getting in wasn't overly packed inside much to our relief.

We then had a nice lunch at the Springs Deli Cafe before heading back to Christchurch.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Kaikoura New Zealand

December 2010

It's a nice 2.5 hour drive from Christchurch to Kaikoura, even in the rain. It's a pretty coastal drive for the last part, reminding me of parts of Hwy 1 on the coast of California.

I'm usually a very organised traveller, but we hadn't booked a boat cruise for the time we were meant to be in Kaikoura and when we arrived they were booked out, so take the tip and book in advance if it's something you really want to do. If you miss out like we did, there is plenty to keep you busy.

We drove out to the seal colony, while the tide was in and were surprised how close some of the seals wanted to get!

We then enjoyed a nice lunch at the Kaikoura Seafood BBQ hut on the side of the road - crayfish, paua fritters, whitebait fritters and chowder - yum!

We drove back into town to check out the Kaikoura Historical Society Museum, small, but worth the visit if you have an hour to spare.

We then drove back to the seal colony to take the walk to the lookout (5 min up hill), we were planning on doing the full hour or so walk but the wind was extremely strong so we decided to give it a miss, the views from the lookout were definitely worth briefly braving the weather though!

We checked into our accommodation at The Fairways, which is just out of town but the golf course. We chose here based on Tripadvisor reviews and were not disappointed.

We then decided to have a drink and then a meal at The Pier. What did we have? If you guessed crayfish you'd be right! The view is stunning and the service was great.

In the morning we enjoyed breakfast at the Kaikoura Food Company before heading off to Hanmer Springs.