Tuesday, January 20, 2015

South Island Holiday - Queenstown

I have wanted to visit Queenstown ever since the other half had the opportunity to visit the area through work and came back with beautiful views of the lake and surrounding mountains. That was a couple of years ago and it has taken us that long to save up for the flights down from Wellington!

This year I finally got to view the Remarkables (the large mountain range behind Queenstown) and Lake Wakitipu in person. They are breathtakingly beautiful and I imagine in winter with snow on top they are even more impressive.

Queenstown itself doesn't appear to be that large, however it was incredibly busy. It is obviously a huge tourist centre and even driving out of the airport the traffic was pretty horrendous. (No, it doesn't compare with the M25 or getting in and out of Heathrow but I am comparing with NZ standards!) We had to pick up supplies in the local supermarket and I was shocked that I actually had to queue for the checkout! Something I never have to do in Porirua.

Once I had got over the intensity of Tourism in Queenstown the town itself is really pretty and full of interesting shops and activities to do with the kids. The Gondola and luge tower over the city and it is well worth travelling up to view the scene from the top of the mountain. It's also great fun coming down again on the luge.

We found the best fun was to be had playing Frisbee golf in the park by the lake. This is something we have never done before but trying to get the Frisbees to land in the baskets located between the trees was great fun. Several almost ended up in the lake and it was very entertaining watching the German couple in front of us take the whole thing incredibly seriously and get very frustrated when my two girls could do it better than them!

The ice rink is also worth a visit but I think we could have probably missed out on the ice bar. You can have a cocktail or mock cocktail served in the ice bar near the waterfront. This is essentially a large walk in freezer that has been kitted out with ice sculptures and a bar and seats. You are then given a mixture of fruit juices in an ice glass. You are also given warm coats, gloves and boots as the temperature is kept at a chilly -5 all year. The kids loved this, but as a teenager I worked in McDonalds and used to have to get chips and burgers out of freezers very similar to this. It kind of took the shine and novelty out of the experience when you just have images of boxes of chicken nuggets and chips pilled into the corners.

If you are visiting Lake Wakatipu then you really have to take a trip out onto the Lake. There are loads of different methods of doing this is Queenstown and we opted for the steam ship. It was used to transport cattle and goods to the farms around the lake but has now been refitted to carry all the tourists. I am not a huge fan of these organised tourist trips (as they have a tendency to make you feel like herded cattle yourself) however this 2 hours trip across the lake was great and allowed you to see the beautiful scenery whilst drinking coffee and allowing the kids to wander about in relative safety.

Overall I like Queenstown, it's a vibrant beautiful introduction to the Southern Alpes, however I am very glad we did not base ourselves here for the entire holiday. It was rather to busy and not remote enough for me!

Monday, January 19, 2015

South Island Holiday - Glenorchy

We have just got back from a fantastic two week holiday to the South Island. We have previously never been further south than Nelson Lakes so this year we decided to take a look at the Southern Alps and booked a bach (aka holiday cottage) in Glenorchy.

We decided to fly as it would take over 8 hours to drive and since I would be the one doing all the driving I opted for the flight from Wellington. It was a great decision as the day we flew out was clear and we got a great view of the Southern Alps and Mount Cook on the way down.

Glenorchy is a small town made up of a few streets clustered at the far end of Lake Wakitipu and is about a 45 minute drive from Queenstown (one of the main towns in the area and where the airport is). There a two pubs/restaurants and a couple of cafes and not much else in this little town. Which is probably why I fell in love with it.

To give you some idea of the beauty of the area several films have been shot in the surrounding countryside. The scene where Boromir dies in Lord of the Rings and Lothlorien, the home of the Elves where all filmed in the area.

We chose an amazing Bach located on the outskirts of Glenorchy. When we first drew up outside I was rather worried. It did look a bit neglected to say the least. However as soon as you stepped inside you realised how much love and care had been put into the old building. It is apparently 130 years
old and the creaks and wonky floors are a testament to this. However the unique decoration and home from home feel of the place made it a great retreat for us.

The biggest problem I had to overcome was the outside loo. It was not just outside, it had no door and no flushing mechanism. It was what is known as a long drop. Basically a big hole in the ground with a wooden seat constructed on top. Relieving yourself in the open air whilst a couple of curious fan tails fly around a couple of feet in front of you and chickens peck around the back of the shed, takes a bit of getting used too!

Ok so I knew this bach had a long drop toilet, but somehow I thought it would have a door!

The kids thought the cottage was great. There were chickens, horses and a donkey in the surrounding fields and even a fish pond to explore. It was also only a five minute walk from the cafes and restaurants in the village centre.

Overall Glenorchy made a great base for our adventures in the South Island.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

New Year Camping

We have seriously been getting into camping over the last few years. Every summer, around the new year, we have been setting up the canvas under the stars.

Camping is big business in New Zealand and camping and outdoor gear is sold everywhere as soon as the temperature gauge begins to edge upwards. We have been collecting camping equipment steadily since moving here and we now own two tents, one for quick weekend trips and one large canvas tent for more serious week holidays. (The larger tent is only unveiled when away for at least a week as it tends to take that long to construct the thing - it even has curtains!)

This week we unpacked the weekend tent and headed to a DOC (Department of Conservation) site about 40 minutes away. DOC sites are great but basic. You tend to have toilet, drinking water and sinks provided and that's about it. They are very cheap though and tend to be located in the most beautiful surroundings.

Roughing it in my opinion is fun anyway (as long as it's only for a short period on time!)

I love camping as it is truly one of the only methods of really getting away from the day to day distractions and spending time together as a family (with no internet, TV or Minecraft to distract people). I am clearly not the only person who feels this way as there were a lot of other families swimming in the river and unpacking bikes and barbecues from the back of their SUVs.

I am now busy planning our next camping trip to explore a bit further from home. :)