Day 62 – Queenstown

Got up and had breakfast, before heading into town to do a spot of souvenir shopping. We parked up the car and popped into a couple of shops in Queenstown Mall – an outdoor shopping arcade in the city centre.

After finishing our shopping, we went straight to the post office to send off our souvenirs along with some bits and pieces that we have collected along the way.

We came back to the hotel and had some lunch and then later in the afternoon we went back downtown to return the rental car. We actually have the car until tomorrow morning, but we thought it would be easier to drop off the car this evening instead. Before we could return the car though we needed to find a petrol station and fill up the tank. We went round and round in circles looking for a petrol station but couldn’t find one, so we decided to drive to the next town and see if we could find one on the way. We ended up taking quite a long drive around the coastline and finding some really nice scenic locations, including a place called Wilson Bay where there was a mountain biking track and a nice picnic area.

There was still no sight of a petrol station and so we carried on in the direction of the next town, Glenorchy. We came across another scenic lookout point at the top of a hill with a beautiful view of the snow topped mountain range. A nice lady in a camper van offered to take mine and Seio’s photo which was very kind.

Our petrol supply was getting fairly low at this point and so we decided to head back towards central Queenstown and see if there was anywhere on the opposite side of town. We eventually found a place and filled up, but it was too late to return the car by this point and so we agreed to take the car back first thing in the morning as originally planned.

On the way back to the hotel we picked up some food at the local supermarket for tonight’s meal.

In the evening we packed up our suitcases ready for our journey on to Australia tomorrow.

I can’t believe New Zealand has come to an end – this is a truly beautiful country and we have thoroughly enjoyed our travels here. We will be back – that is for sure!

Day 59 – Dunedin

This was our second day in Dunedin. It was another warm day again, which is apparently quite unusual for this town, but we were not complaining!! Today we set off for a lovely coastal drive around the Otago Peninsula. As we crossed over the bridge to central Otago we got some wonderful sea views. Our first stop was Larnach Castle and as the road started to climb and climb, the clouds got closer and closer and you really started to get that eerie, misty, Scottish highlands feeling. It gave the Castle a great atmosphere. Apparently this is the only Castle in New Zealand. It was built by a politician/banker and it’s a bit of a quirky style castle – it incorporates the traditional British castle style together with Australian-style verandahs with ornately carved iron railings. The gardens were beautiful, and the inside of the castle had been kept quite authentic as well.

After having a bite of lunch in the castle grounds, we set off for the tip of the peninsula and to the Royal Albatross Colony – we were tempted to take a tour to see the Albatrosses, however the wind was so gusty and strong, that we found it hard to stand up, let alone go on a guided walk. We hopped back in the car and headed back to a warmer and less windier location. The coastal drive was beautiful, the sun had come back out and was glistening on the water. We passed through a lovely little town called Portobello before arriving at the main bridge and then central Dunedin.

Once we were back in the city centre, we stopped off at the famous Station building to take a couple of snaps – Along with the Sydney Opera House, it is apparently one of the most photographed buildings in the Southern Hemisphere. A wedding party was having their photographs taken inside just as we arrived.

Across the road from the Station was the Cadbury’s Factory!! We couldn’t help ourselves and decided to go on a little ‘Chocolate tour’. It was quite interesting actually, because although the actual manufacturing processes must be the same, a lot of the chocolate bars are completely different to those in the UK. I had never heard of some of the chocolate we were given as samples!!

After our chocolate experience, we took a quick walk around the city centre and looked at some of the traditional architecture. Dunedin was apparently the very first City and therefore has a lot of the first of everything! A very interesting city…

In the evening we packed and got ready for the next leg of our journey.

Day 58 – Dunedin

We left Oamaru at around 10am this morning and headed off towards Dunedin. On the way we stopped off at Moeraki to see the famous Boulders on the beach. There were actually more of them than I thought there would be, some of them perfectly round, others looking like tortoise shells, and others looking as if they had been split clean down the middle with a gigantic karate chop!

Outside of the cafe/shop, there were a couple of deer grazing in a nearby field – they posed graciously for our photos and then stood underneath the sign that explained where we could buy them food – well trained or what??!

We didn’t feed them, but instead jumped back in the car and carried on along route 1 towards our destination. After a little while we came across a little place called Trotter’s Gorge, and stepped out of the car to stretch our legs and take a break. The water was so clear and cold there! We walked through the campsite ($6 per night!!) and carried on up a track towards some caves. It was very cool and refreshing – today’s temperature was about 23 to 25 degrees, but it felt more like 30! When we got back to the car, we had something to eat and rejoined route 1 for Dunedin.

We arrived in Dunedin just after 1pm, and checked into our hotel. Dunedin apparently takes its name from the scottish meaning Castle of Edin. There are a lot of families with Scottish names here, and many of the streets have Scottish origins.

After unpacking some bits and pieces and taking a little break, we headed off for the world’s steepest street ‘Baldwin Street’. At its steepest it has a gradient of 1 to 2.86m. It is only about 100m long, but it felt like a very long climb up – coming down was of course a breeze! The view from the top was well worth it, but once again a photo really doesn’t do the scale of these places any justice. Its amazing where people have actually built their houses – I think the people that live here must be very fit indeed. When Seio and I got back down to the bottom of the road, we rewarded ourselves with a nice cold ice cream…just what we needed (^^)v

Next we headed back into town and took a scenic drive around some nice country lanes, before heading to the scenic lookout at the very top of Signal Hill Rd. There we got some amazing views of Dunedin city and the Otago peninsula. It was such a beautiful day again today, we really have been lucky with the weather –  I don’t think we have had one bad day in NZ yet!

On the way back to the hotel we did our usual Supermarket stop and picked up some food for the evening. Supermarkets in NZ seem quite similar to the UK – there appear to be 3 major chains: Countdown, New World, and Pak ‘N Save – a bit like Asda, Tesco, and Morrisons!! Today we shopped at New World.

As it was such a nice evening, and still quite light outside, we decided to take a nice walk to the Botanical gardens and back before calling it a night. It’s still quite warm now at 11pm!!

Day 57 – Oamaru

We got up early and had breakfast in the Queen’s bedroom (?!) before checking out and waving goodbye to the lovely little town of Timaru. Our destination today was Oamaru, another sleepy little town about 80km from Timaru, famous for Penguin watching!! On the way out of Timaru, we popped into a local art gallery called Aigantighe (pronounced egg and tie) for a quick look…. they had some very nice pieces of fine art, some aboriginal artwork, and even a couple of Japanese wood block paintings by Hiroshige, which Seio was pleased to see!! New Zealand is quite an art and crafty place, with small galleries like this dotted all over.

We arrived at Oamaru just after midday, and had a quick drive around the town. We came across the old station – now just a freight train stop, but full of character, and also saw some lovely sea views.

Although it was a bit early still, we decided to track down our hotel and check in. Our hotel is run by a nice Chinese man, and is situated on the top of a hill..quite high up so the view of the town and the sea is very nice! The hotel is under a year old, and I have a feeling that Seio and I are the only guests today…the Chinese man was so helpful, he showed us everything from how to operate the TV to a selection of menus from local restaurants. After having a quick cup of coffee and a bite to eat, Seio and I headed out to see what we could find…guess what, we found another botanical garden – complete with Japanese bridge and rose garden!! We do like our garden walks though, especially when the sun is shining. We managed to befriend a cute grey cat, and follow a bunch of ducklings upstream, as well as coming across some people dressed in Victorian clothing, seeing an elephant and spotting Humpty Dumpty!!

After leaving the pretty gardens, we drove back into town to take some photos of the older and more traditional buildings made from Oamaru stone. The architecture is another lovely feature of some of these quiet coastal towns.

Later on we popped into the i-Site information centre to find out what time the penguins were coming home tonight – there are two kinds of penguins in Oamaru: Blue Penguins and Yellow-Eyed Penguins. We decided to go and see if we could locate some Yellow-Eyed penguins and headed off for Bushy Beach Reserve. On the way we stopped off at the Lookout point and got a lovely sea view of the town…we could even see our hotel on the very top of the hill!!

When we reached Bushy Beach Reserve, we parked the car and walked down to the cliff top viewing platform. It was a while before the first penguin came in … he was so far away – a little dot on the beach, but you could still tell it was a Penguin from its waddle!! Another one came in a couple of minutes later and again waddled off onto the cliffside. We also saw a fur seal swimming around just off the shore. It was a while before there was any more penguin action, but then we discovered a penguin the cliffside in the grass! Very cute  – he even waved to us at one point (^^)v

Today was a bit of a botanical and zoological adventure – cats, ducklings, sheep, cows, penguins and an elephant!

Day 54 – Picton / Christchurch

FerryGot up early today, had some breakfast and took a taxi to the Interislander Ferry terminal. I made sure we left early, but when we got to the terminal it was so quick to check in, that we really needn’t have rushed at all!! Never mind, it’s better to be there too early than too late (^^)>

ViewFromFerryThe ferry crossing was quite smooth even though it was still extremely windy outside. The scenery passing through the Cook Straits was beautiful – lush greens and deep blue hues everywhere you looked.

CookStraitThe journey from Wellington to Picton took about 3 hours altogether. We managed to check our baggage in not just for the ferry journey but also for the connecting train journey as well, so we didn’t need to worry about our suitcases until we reached Christchurch – very handy!

When we arrived at the Picton ferry terminal, we disembarked and headed for the train station …at first we couldn’t find it – in fact nobody could – it was so well disguised as a Subway Sandwich shop!! The front served fast food, whilst the back office had all the tickets!!

BlenheimStationAnwyay, we joined the queue at the station ticket office, only to find out that there had been a derailment of a freight train over the weekend and some of the points on the track had been damaged and not yet fixed. We were told that buses had been organized to take us to the next stop, Blenheim, where we could catch the train. Seio and I both had a flashback to the San Diego Amtrak nightmare…not again surely?! Actually we had no problems at all, the buses turned up on time and took us all to Blenheim station where the Tranz Coastal train picked us up and delivered us in Christchurch on time and in one piece!

ViewFromTrainViewFromTrain2The train journey was very scenic, with the Kaikoura mountains on one side of the train and the Pacific Ocean running along the other side. The conductor was like a proper tour guide, giving us a little bit of the history about the rivers and locations we were passing through on our journey to Christchurch. The journey took about 5 hours altogether and we arrived at Christchurch Station at about 6:30pm ish.

From the station we hopped on a shared shuttle bus and made our way to the hotel – a funky techno boutique hotel just down the road from  Christchurch Cathedral.

ChristchurchCathedralFirst impressions of Christchurch are very nice indeed – it’s the ‘garden city’ apparently and I can understand that. It has a very pretty river running through the middle of town, with parks and flowers dotted here and there. It almost feels like we are back in Welwyn Garden City…almost!!

ChristchurchTramOur room is fairly small, and seeing as we are only staying here for 2 nights, we decided not to unpack here as we wouldn’t be able to move!! After we freshened up a bit, we headed into town to have a look around and get some food. This really is a pretty town, and fairly quiet as well.

Tomorrow we are going to explore a bit more…perhaps go punting down the river Avon, who knows??