Day 20: Nelson/Hokitika: November 17th
We checked out and drove into town. We passed by the city beach and there were tons of paddle boarders and fishermen! Into town for much needed WIFI. We hit up the second hand market where Saare bought LOTR 1 for $2. We had lunch at a cafe - Saare had a kiwi burger (fried egg on it). Go time! We left Nelson and headed to the west coast. Very excited for this stretch of the drive - supposed to be so beautiful and ever changing. We drove through Paparoa national park - rainforest with incredible views of the Tasman sea and shores. It was absolutely pouring rain - good day to travel! We stopped in Punakaiki to see the pancake rocks. So cool and amazing - limestone and silt turned into crazy lines on the rocks. Similar to the Waitomo caves but above ground and so pronounced! We loved the blowhole and the surge channels. Incredible. We beetled down the coast right through grey mouth (told not to stop there) and arrived in tiny cute Hokitika. Suns out now! We booked in at a cheap hotel on the ocean and had pizza at Fat Pipis haha. Delicious! We walked home barefoot along the ocean under a spectacular sunset. The waves crashing, old beach fires burning, a really cool Hokitika sign made out of driftwood. So gorgeous. Lulled to sleep!
Day 21: Hokitika/Cardrona: November 18
Woke up this morning expecting lots of tractor work on the erosion but it wasn't too bad. Had some coffee (thankfully before I smashed our bodum) and tried to have brekky but there was no cutlery or knives or bowls so forget that we went to a cafe. Had yum local muesli and local yogurt and of course flat whites and a fresh baked apple turnover. We had a great chef who gave us a suggestion for lunch spot (white bait!!) on the way to Wanaka. We hit the road around 10 and enjoyed incredible scenery - sunshine and coastal plains. We made it to Franz Joseph before lunch. Hiked in there in the basin where the glacier used to be - was gorgeous!! River, rocks, and of course the gorgeous glacier. Couldn't get too close. There were helicopter tours above us non stop. Saare kept yelling for his friend
Franz haha. Franz! Ver are jou! Ve are comink! We kept a souvenir rock. We drove through fox glacier, to Matheson lake (bit of a bust - didn't have time to walk and it was a bit cloudy then) but enjoyed the turnover. We drove through Ross (super cute mining town) and made our way south where the scenery kept changing - now forests and beaches. Then we enjoyed the drive along the cliffs near knights lookout. We were so excited to see the curly tree whitebait company!!! Our first whitebait and so legit (recommendation from Hokitika). We were the only ones there (after a tourist left when he saw what the whitebait were) at the family's home (garage!!). She showed us the baby whitebait and how clear they were (sign of fresh) they were caught in the river and frozen. They are a delicacy. She coked them the kiwi way with egg in a patty. Little egg, lots of whitebait! On a piece of white bread and we ate that (as they do in the north) then with some mint sauce and homemade smoked salt (as they did on the west coast). Yum!! She was so sweet - amazing experience. We left just as a tour bus showed up thank goodness! We hustled to get to the gate (the road to Haast closes at 6)!! And made it only to get stopped at the slip - which we saw was actually the road had slipped from the mountain. Scary. Our pub friend tonight told us 2 foreigners were on it when it happened and they died. We waited there about 20 minutes and made sandwiches on the highway while the diggers had stopped all traffic and worked madly to replace rock. Side note - The sand fleas were horrendous!! We stopped next at the Haast blue pools. Amazing glacier pools that were indeed a vivid blue. Beautiful!!!! Got some pics and again the stupid sand fleas! We ran our chubby buts up the trail home. That hurt haha. We had to be past the far gate at 6 and made it in plenty of time. We drove through the mountains and saw lake Wanaka. Beautiful! We stopped and swam in our skivvies - so cold but so nice and refreshing and the backdrop was unreal! We can see why they say the south is so breathtaking - it is. It freaking is. Mountains rising out of lakes, hills, bright blue waters - you just have to see it. Lots of stops to take pictures. We drove through lovely Wanaka on our way to the B&B in Cardrona. Beautiful back yard, had a hot tub - Great spot nestled in the hills near the ski fields (ski hill :)). We found ourselves a little ski town ! Just love it. We went across the street to the oldest pub in NZ, which started out as a brothel for the gold miners, awesome place with a gold mine shaft in the middle of the pub, fireplace outside, good food and beer - and a huge beer garden outside. The town is tiny but they have 3000 ppl out back in ski season. So crazy!!!! Must come back here!! We spent the evening with a Kiwi named Jeff who was a tour operator. Such an awesome Kiwi and we learned a lot more about the culture and people and way of life. Deer hunting by helicopter (and ongoing use of helicopters for everything) rabbit culls, stoned sky dive operators, his curiosity about the Canadian economy and Quebec. We burned Kauri wood and had Cardrona ale till the pub was closed and the pub cat finally stopped sleeping in my arms :)
Day 22: Queenstown: November 19th
We woke up and enjoyed a bluebird morning out back having coffee with our lovely B&B hosts - an interoceania couple (Aussie-kiwi) there must be a better word! They got married at last nights pub. He was so funny - showing off a stubby cover (beer cozy) that no kiwis know of and Aussies think they invented. Haha we had to break the news! He told us about a few Queenstown spots and the best pies!!!! I tracked down Jojo and got to talk to her and wish her a Happy Birthday. Perfect start to the day! We set off across the Remarkables (ski hill, LOTR filming) which were indeed amazing. Hugely steep peaks that plummet to the valley and water below! The road was crazy - switchback after switchback. We stopped in a gorgeous little mining town called Arrowtown. So pretty with parks and a lovely downtown with shops and restaurants. And a bakery. The bakery. The meat pie bakery!! We grabbed a chicken/apricot (they love that combo here so had to finally try) and a steak and cheese and took them to the park to eat. AMAZING!!! They were far and away the best yet. Looking back at the gas station goo pies was sad! Saare was having a divine experience I think. Haha! We walked the little town and headed back towards the car. One quick glance at each other and we were back at the bakery to order a mince bolognese pie to share haha. Back to the bench to eat. And on our way to Queenstown! We toured by car to get a feel for the areas and then walked downtown to find WIFI and book a place. A bit frustrating as there are SO many accommodations at so many prices in so many areas. We finally got in the car and just decided on the scenic. Pretty darn nice and got that water view :) As we are accustomed it was beer o'clock so we went to a new place by the water for a beer then to a cute hole in the wall in the square for a pint. Read the Queenstown entertainment guide, asked about bikes and set off. Saare bought an awesome merino tshirt (finally shopped!!!) We decided golf would be fun and Saare had seen a nice course in Arrowtown. We suited up and got there and it just happened to be a shotgun corporate tournament. Bummer! Well, we were close, so back to he bakery hahaha. They were just closing but We got a lamb and mint and a venison pie. Amazing. Back to our bench - pretty sure the birds were judging us!! Took the other route back and made a detour to Coronet Peak - the local ski hill. Small, quaint hill with lots of mtn bikers and so many snow machines I thought they were night lights! The views were incredible up there. Very fun to be at a ski hill across the world. We came back and headed out for dinner to Cow - an old dairy farm turned pizza/pasta - a staple in Queenstown. The tables were close together and we sat beside 2 kiwi helicopter pilots who broke Te ice by giving us the rest of their bread. We had a great chat with them about the help world here (I don't think I mentioned that heli-hunting is where you drop from a heli and tackle a deer hahaha). They said must go to Milford, akaroa. Side note - dad just emailed me about Frank Worsely, Shakletons captain, who is from Akaroa. Cool. They were so cute too - so genuinely curious about why we chose New Zealand and proudly thanking us for coming here. They knew BC well, as most kiwis do. We went to the beach downtown and watched sunset and then home time. We sat on the balcony and organized our activities and pictures and off to bed.
Day 23: Queenstown: November 20th
We woke up to a stellar day and headed out to have brekky and some wifi at Joe's Garage. They had toastees and fries but we declined! Too much. It was so hot on the patio - so nice. Especially since we have been hearing about sideways rain back home. We went to a booking outfit to book the jet boat at 11ish and got on the 11:30 shotover! They shuttled us out to the river we had seen after returning from meat pies in Arrowtown. We suited up and had such an awesome ride! So much fun. Close to the rocks (there was red paint on some rocks hat the driver had hit last week haha) and 360s, some spray, a little history on how they get that part of he river and how the boat works. Very worth it! We were among a spiritual tour group of sort of Buddhists we found out after chatting with their surfer guide from California. Spirit tours/travel. Haha - spirituality and jet boating! We didn't want to miss out on more adventure so impulsively booked skydiving as soon as we got off the shuttle. Yep - locked in!!! We picked up beers at the overpriced liquor store and then off to Glenorchy - a favorite of many! The road was very windy. We had lunch at a cafe and walked near the lake - saw more jet boats and dust storms down the lake. It was stunning scenery. We got back and darted to Franktown for groceries. We gave 2 cute German girls a ride back to town - we have too much crap usually to give anyone a ride! We enjoyed homemade dinner and a serious chill night. We totally missed the Mexico NZ game!! Oops!!!
Day 24: Queenstown: November 21st
Saare had a busy night with a red spider and did not come out on top of that duel. At least it wasn't bed bugs. We had brekky and packed a lunch and set off to get mountain bikes for he 10-2 half day at the Queenstown bike park. It was a drizzly yucky morning but by the time we geared up and hit the gondola it was clear with patches of blue. We were the only ones besides two guys from France. Beautiful views at the too and really fun runs. Wet conditions and our over stoke contributed to unforeseen and unfortunate events that left us battered after the third run of the day haha. Saare had the bail of the day over the bars into a bush. He knows how to fall in style and it is hard to a) make sure he's ok and b) laugh - not the other way around. We stopped around noon at a picnic table we'd seen on a run and had sannies and our new fave lunch - leftover Greek pasta salad. Hung out with some goats on the hill too. Also saw the luge which looked pretty awesome. We packed it in after 8 laps up the gondola and biked back to the bike shop - glad to have bought the $8 insurance as I had a broken spoke and Saare had a yet unknown something going on with his bike! We hobbled back for a pint at Atlas again and then to our room to shower and chill. At 5 we set off to the harbour, quick wifi stop, and to the massive lineup at TSS Earnslaw (recommended by Cardrona B&B). We were the few under 50 but what the heck! The ship is a 101 year old steamship that runs off coal. You can actually stand above the engine room and see it all going down. Very cool! It was gorgeously sunny on the deck and we enjoyed the up close of the mountains on our way to WalterPeak farm. We arrived and headed straight to our dinner table in an old building surrounded by gardens. We felt a bit weird at one of the only tables for 2 in the middle of the room. The buffet was so delicious and we enjoyed a lovely central otago Pinot noir (not as good as last night tho). After dinner the farmhand had a show for us. There were shaggy sheep in a pen, one huge very shaggy sheep in the barn and a bunch of shaved sheepies in a big field. Oddly, as soon as they saw him and he crowd they ran up the hill behind he trees. He brought out his dog Bess - who was pumped to tangle the sheep. It was only on a small scale - there is 60,000 acres, 20,000 sheep (50,000 football fields) and it takes a week and a half to 2 weeks to get them down from the mountains. As soon as he gave Bess word she ran a big loop and had those sheep hurtling away from her down the hill. She acts like a hunter and doesn't make a sound - some dogs just go crazy and bark at them. She could make them go left, right, left. So awesome! And one tried to get away but she bit at it and got it back with the group. After that, he sheared the shaggy sheep! It was freaking out trying to escape the pen but he just submitted it and the sheep was pretty limp - she was really big and he just manhandled her. She was the type of wool that makes carpets (itchy) but they had some for merino. It was an awesome show and now we can hear piano and singing upstairs on the way back to Queenstown! Just going to pack up tonight and try to sleep knowing what is looming :):)
Day 25: Queenstown/Arrowtown/Te Anau: November 22nd
:( We woke up to find low lying clouds over Queenstown. Not what we wanted to see!!! They had us on hold for an hour but nothing was lifting so we had to cancel :( such a bummer!!! After we processed this, we checked out and got FWs and a scone to share ap he the lake. We watched the crazy shark boat do it's thing in the harbour then we hit the road. It was no suprise that we ended up at Arrowtone bakery for brunch meat pies!! We enjoyed seeing a guy on our bench eating one himself. After that we went to Wanaka to go to puzzling world - my request to ease the sadness of a no skydive day. Obviously the same levels of danger for both activities right? We saw a tilted room where water runs uphill and the room seriously made us feel sick it was so hard to wrap your brain around! People were stumbling ! We saw a room where one side made a person tiny and the other side was huge - same illusion they use for hobbits and wizards. Yessss. We saw a room where eyes follow you, and other cool eye tricks. Outside we did the human maze which made us feel really stupid at first. You had to find each corner tower. But so satisfying when we did it. Our competitiveness led us to separate and it was pretty funny to see Saare just giggly at the top of a tower as I scurried like a hamster below. But it was hot so we hopped the fence and said bye. Somehow, so weird, we were back in our favorite little Arrowtown. I had to get a book, so we went to the bookstore/movie theatre. It was so cute - rows of comfy seats and open space at the bottom with bean bag chairs. And a place you could get wine or flat whites to sip! We swung by the pie shop in shame and excitement and the we hit the road and enjoyed the scenery flanked by the Remarkables on one side and lake Wakatipu on the other. Gorgeous!! We stopped at the end of the lake to enjoy meat pies #8/9 and read our books on the beach by ourselves with a wild chicken. It looked like NZ Mabel with huge mountains and a windy valley. We jumped in and then hit the road to Te Anau. Such a cute glacier-lakeside town. We had a tea and snagged wifi to help find our motel - a cheapy but nicey with all we need. Saare as usual said yes when the receptions asked if we wanted milk (they do this at every place!! So intriguing!). He knows to get standard and not trim as he asked for trim at the Baywatch and the guy told him that was for ladies hahaha. We settled in (meat pie #10 down and shame spiral in full effect) and strolled the lakefront in the sunshine while reading about the area. Lots of the surroundings in NZ have a story about the geology, and about the Theology of the Maori. How the mountains were made, 2 ways. We went to the red cliff cafe, recommended, and had soup and salad. Pretty lame dinner but we were full!! Now Saare is in hobbit land - he will be definitely talking like a hobbit when he stops reading. Looking forward to another day tomorrow