This post comes to you courtesy of Singapore Airlines’ economy class. Thankfully, the guy in front hasn’t put his chair back too much, so I reckon I can squeeze another post or two out here…
Anyway, back to the West Coast. We left Makarora (or Makarooroo as I preferred to call it) earlyish for the leisurely drive to Queenstown, stopping at another five million stunning viewing points where the scenery was only outdone by the angry bees that seemed to be attracted to George’s t-shirt.
I still remained confused about road distances in New Zealand when we rolled into Wanaka about 15 hours early, but the timing worked well for a healthy sausage roll and cup of tea for elevenses by the lake. The view certainly made a change from my usual eleven o’clock view surrounded by my scary colleagues.
We then made our way to Queenstown via Cardrona (we were looking for the infamously ‘vulgar’ bra-fence, but couldn’t see it anywhere), some scarily steep roads and Arrowtown, which was very quaint. As we were early into Queenstown we checked in to our hotel then headed to the waterfront for some lunch before our jet-boat and gondola rides in the afternoon. George had a lovingly scheduled plan, almost ruined by me when I got back to the car and realised I had left the sidelights on and flattened the battery of the car. Not sure if we told you, Zoe & Richard, sorry about that!
Cue some panicked list-rearranging from George and some amazingly quick thinking from me (asking a taxi drive for jump leads, result!) and we managed to make it for our scheduled shotover jet ride. That was pretty cool, apart from George making me sit in the seat which managed to collect the most amount of water during high-speed 360 degree spins.
A quick spin up the gongola (as Archie calls ’em) and a ride on the luge (which I enjoyed more than I should have) lead to some more seafood for dinner by the waterfront - that’s three meals out of three by the sea, for those counting!
The next day was our planned Milford Sound trip, a five hour coach trip then an overnight cruise on the Sound. I took thousands of pictures, but none seem to show the majesty of the area - somewhere that needs to be seen to be believed. I persuaded George to go kayaking which would have been lovely apart from the hoards of sandflies and the fact that I haven’t done any physical exercise in about four years, then had some lovely food in spectacular surroundings. It was that good that I even got up early to catch the views in the moonlight which were again incredible. The boat took us to around the Sound and we managed to spot some rare penguins (which always excite George) and some fighting seals (which always excite me) before heading back to Queenstown. We couldn’t face the five hour return coach so splurged on a scenic flight back which not only got back in just 40 minutes but also gave us a great perspective on where we had just been sailing. I tried to get the coveted front seat, but this American bloke grabbed it - who, it turned out, was a bloomin’ pilot. Cheek!
That afternoon we drove back towards Queenstown, stopping for the night in Omarama (once we had learned how to pronounce it, although George still calls it Uvavu). The hostel we had phoned was full, but gave us the number of his friend, who had a B&B. We were a little worried after driving on gravel tracks for about 10 minutes into the middle of nowhere, but the house appeared and looked lovely. We didn’t even worry that we were the only guests in this remote b&b run by the lovely Patsy who, it turned out, wasn’t a mass murderer but runs a lovely B&B. Look her up if you are ever in town!
The excitement of the remote site was almost overtaken by the terror of driving back after dinner. In the darkness our headlights seemed to be a magnet for the suicidal animals of New Zealand – we saw a cute rabbit and a possum (which we apparently should have run over), then one of the birds flung itself at the car which was nice. Hopefully it was a pest-bird and not one of the rare, dying out, native ones…
The weather remained perfect so we chanced another helicopter ride to make up for missing out at Franz Josef, and this time we were able to fly. From a place near Mount Cook airport we flew up into the Alps, over the Franz Josef and Fox glaciers (this time from the other side) and past Mount Cook itself. The whole area was stunning in the cloudless blue sky, and we even got to land on the ice up high in the mountains. George was going to try and do an snow angel, until we realised that they don’t work so well in the ice, so she threw some at me instead. It still amazes me now to think about it, especially as we were still in the NZ summer, and I now think I would quite like to be a helicopter pilot after my first ride in one.
Then a nice gentle ride back with a stop for lunch at Lake Tekapo and we were back in Christchurch in no time. All refreshed, energised and ready for the kids again!