Our first trip from Christchurch was to Queenstown. I’d only been once before a few years ago, and it is one of the places that New Zealand is most known for. In the summer, it’s one of the adventure capitals of the world (the guys who did Nick’s bungee jump in Interlaken live in Queenstown the other half of the year) and in winter, it’s where you go for the best skiing.
We had an early flight out. While waiting for our taxi, I realized I had cut it pretty fine with the time of the taxi versus the time of our flight. He was a few minutes late, which didn’t help, and ended up being the oldest most decrepit old man around – how is he still driving!? It took him at least 3 minutes to do a three point turn to get us out of the hotel parking. We end up sprinting into the terminal, going to the self check-in, only to be greeted with ‘check in closed.’ Oh sh-t! That’s the first time that’s happened to me! I started freaking out, so Nick’s cool head had to take over. It turns out since we had no bags and it was a regional flight, we were ok. We then sprinted to the gate, only to find it wasn’t even open, and I had a mild melt down in front of about 100 people waiting for flights. Charming. How am I still married?
Our flight down to Queenstown was pretty uneventful. It took about an hour in a propeller plane. The light into Queenstown is through alps, which are pretty narrow. For that reason, no fights are allowed in or out of Queenstown at or after dusk as pilots need visibility.
We arrived and picked up our rental car. We got a great deal through Thrifty which was a relocation. We didn’t have to pay a thing for our rental, as long as we got it back to Christchurch within 48 hours. We only had a night in Queenstown, so it worked out perfect. We ended up with a great big comfortable 4 wheel drive (which guzzled the gas, but the comfort was worth it!). I recommend anyone in NZ to check out relocation deals if you are ever doing a one way journey.
My flatmate from Perth, Dominique, now lives in Te Anau with her boyfriend, Mike. I was so lucky as she took the day off work to come and see us. As luck would have it, Mike’s father was about to fly her into Queenstown in his helicopter, meaning we got to have pretty much a full day with her! We picked her up from the helicopter company and headed into Queenstown to enjoy a delicious brunch.
Dominique is working as an accountant in Te Anau and studying towards her Chartered Accountancy. We used to spend nights talking about exciting accounting topics over dinner, and Nick has Dom to thank for teaching me how to cook those dinners which I now make for him! I miss our trips out to the beach and heart to heart conversations. We laughed about how Dom would come home from work and want to talk about everything that happened at work, whereas all I wanted was to forget that the day even happened. We used to walk to the bus every morning. I really miss our chats. We used to talk so much, everyday for hours! We were always there for each other, and then I moved to the USA. Thankfully, time apart in true friendships doesn’t seem to make a difference, we picked up right where we left off. It was nice for her to meet Nick too, as she’d only seen him on Skype up to that point!
Now, I’d come to Queenstown to show Nick the beautiful scenery. It was a shame that the weather didn’t reciprocate. We had a dreary day that blocked out the scenery. I had hoped it would lift, but it never fully did. We wandered around the botanic gardens, the town centre, along the lake, and even stopped for some fresh baked Cookie Time cookies. (I think we ended up with about 3 or 4 more during our time there!)
At lunchtime, Mike was able to take a break from work so we picked him up and headed to Arrowtown for lunch. Arrowtown is a town that was involved in the New Zealand gold rush. It’s kept its charm in the buildings and has an area set up that shows how the Chinese settlers lived. We had a great time sightseeing (cue: “What you want!”) and had a delicious lunch catching up on new and old gossip and listening to future plans. Mike and Dom are a very motivated couple in their chosen careers (Mike is a helicopter pilot) and will go far. Again, it’s hard not to get motivated when you hear other people so excited about the future.
We dropped Mike back to work and headed back into town and as the weather hadn’t improved, went for a coffee for more chats. Dom and I were in the same classes at university, but our lives didn’t really cross paths properly until Perth. I’d been there probably a couple of months when a mutual friend of ours suggested we get in touch and have a catch up. We met up for a wine and then ended up having dinner. Dom is just so easy to get along with, and it was just so easy for us all to get along. I wish we all lived closer!
It was time to take Dom back for her ride back to Te Anau. I was sad to say good bye but I was also so honoured that she took the time to see us. Thank you Dom!
That night we headed out for dinner to a sweet Thai restaurant that was recommend to us by the motel owner. We had really delicious pad thai’s and Nick had a kiwi beer, which he wasn’t too impressed by. It had a great view out over Lake Wakatipu. The motel was great – Bella Vista which is a chain throughout New Zealand. The staff were lovely and our room was very comfortable for being the ‘budget’ room.
We had been going back and forth past an art gallery all day, and this ugly little kiwi had been calling my name. Well, after we got our cookie time cookie dessert, we headed back to the gallery to get my kiwi for my ‘kiwi’ wall. It’s probably my favourite thing that we purchased!
The next morning we awoke, hoping that the cloud had lifted. It hadn’t. We had planned to go up the mountain on the gondola to see the dramatic view that Queenstown is known for, but alas it just wasn’t meant to be for us. We decided to head back to the place that we had brunch with Dom the day before because it was so delicious, grabbed a cookie, and then headed on our way back to Christchurch.
Just before we left though, we decided to take some selfies by Lake Wakatipu. I was to jump onto Nick’s back, but apparently I wasn’t jumping well enough. Well, eventually he gave me the direction to jump a certain way – and I did. Pretty much over his shoulders. We both ended up on the gravel, laughing our arses off while an unknown amount of people looked on. Oh, silly tourists.
The drive was a little under 6 hours. The first 4 hours are the fun part, the last 2 are boring – just one lane highway with some passing lanes which is the main state highway. (Unlike US/German which would be three or four lanes).
We passed through some gorgeous areas. Of course, being summer, a lot of it wasn’t as pretty as it would be in the cooler months when it would be covered with snow, but it was still stunningly breathtaking.
We stopped at Lake Pukaki with the beautiful views of Mount Aoraki/Mount Cook in the background. The water is topaz blue full of glacier water. It’s one of my favourite parts of New Zealand, and something you really miss by just flying. Further on is Lake Tekapo, with similar water, but we didn’t stop as we had reservations at Tandoori Palace that night.
About halfway through the journey I needed to wee (as one does on long road trips!) We ended up in a town called Omarama (famous for gliding). It was getting warm, so I changed in the boot of the car, hopped out and headed to the bathroom. In true high country New Zealand style, it said on the woman’s door ‘if you can’t open the door, kick it with your gumboot!’ Classic.
Once you cross into Otago, the mountains change to very dry, sparse looking hills. Nick couldn’t believe that there are no snakes in New Zealand, because it reminded him of California. As we were driving through the high country, I wrote a poem. It happens a lot, but I rarely write them down anymore. I decided to finally write one down instead of keeping them in my head. I wrote it on my cookie time cookie bag:
The High Country (14/02/14)
Her gentle shoulders
Rounded and soft
Ease, sighing and heaving
Down into her chest
Blanketed by bush
Sparse, yet needed
Soft visions of grass
Yellowed by the sun
Her body supports
Sheep, cotton balls of fur
Small streams of water
Quench her thirst
Beaten by the sun
Frozen in winter
Strong she stands
High Country New Zealand
The rest of the journey was not too exciting. We made it back to the hotel in Christchurch and then headed out for dinner, which was covered in my previous blog. All in all, I’m really glad we did what we did – the flying down and then driving back up to get the whole experience. Next time we will have to have a day or so more so that we can see Dom in beautiful Te Anau!
The next blog will be the last in this series and will cover Wellington, Nelson and Kaikoura.
Until next time,