Wednesday, 24 December 2014

New Zealand, week three

This is my third and final blog post about our brilliant three week visit to beautiful New Zealand. You can read about my first week here and my second week here.

First and foremost, check out this hugely awesome video our friends Alyssia and Jon made. It's all about their New Zealand adventure so far, and Emily and I make lots of cameo appearances in it. We had an incredible two and half weeks travelling around NZ with these guys and we can't wait to meet up with them again elsewhere in the world in the future! They're now living in Queenstown for the next few months, or maybe longer. Wishing them all the best for their exciting year ahead :)

Our New Zealand Adventure from moose goose on Vimeo.

After leaving Franz Joseph, we headed towards Wanaka on the Kiwi Experience bus. We'd been looking forward to visiting Wanaka for ages, partly because we heard it was a particularly beautiful part of the New Zealand and more so, as we were meeting up with our friends Harvey and Rachel. We met this lovely couple when we worked with them in Verbier earlier in the year. We stopped along the way to see the stunning reflection of Mount Cook on the Lake Matheson mirror lake along the way, and have breakfast with the mountains as a backdrop. You get really spoilt with incredible views in New Zealand, but these views were particularly incredible.

new zealand mount cook
Mount Cook

lake matheson mirror lake
Mount Cook reflection on Lake Matheson

waterfall photo
Thunder Creek Falls

We also stopped at the Thunder Creek Falls, which is a popular photo stop to try and get a good shot of doing exactly what I'm doing in the photo above!

Harvey was the Head Chef of the hotel we worked at, so we were delighted when he suggested we go for a BBQ at the lake! Alyssia and Jon came with us and we all enjoyed an amazing BBQ that Harvey and Rachel prepared for us. It's cool that there are gas BBQs and hot plates in picnic spots all over New Zealand. I guess they'd rather provide proper facilities than people build their own fires. Public toilets are also everywhere and and always pretty clean.

Having read my previous blog post about me liking to take fire station photos around the world, Harvey suggested we stop at the Wanaka Voluntary Fire Station on the way back from the lake. The fire stations in New Zealand all set off an alarm similar to an air raid siren when there is a fire, to let the voluntary fire crew know there is an emergency. We heard the alarm and saw the engines speed off three times in New Zealand, once in Wanaka when we could also see a big black plume of smoke not far away! 

new zealand fire station
Fire station selfie!

The following day, Emily and I skipped the Kiwi bus, to stay in Wanaka for the day with Harvey and Rachel. Rachel organised a kayaking trip for us on Lake Wanaka, which was a real bargain, especially as we didn't have a guide. The lake was very calm, which was a relief as apparently it's mostly very choppy with high winds making it tough to paddle on. The views were incredible with the mountains in the background and we paddled first to a small beach, then to tiny Ruby Island in the middle of the lake. Even this tiny remote island had a gas BBQ and a public loo!

After our three-hour kayaking adventure, we had lunch and ice cream in the town, before Harvey and Rachel drove us the approx one and a half hour journey to Queenstown, in their little camper van called Harrison.

new zealand kayaking
Emily and I Kayaking on Lake Wanaka

new zealand kayaking
Lake Wanaka kayaking selfie!

For the last week or so, we'd heard the word FERGBURGER numerous times. It seems that this little burger joint is synonymous with Queenstown, with a hugely popular reputation. We headed there as soon as we arrive in Queenstown with Harvey and Rachel, with Emily ordering the Chief Wiggum [pork belly, a hash brown and all sorts of other super unhealthy indulgence] and myself ordering a Bun Laden, a vegetarian falafel treat. Our first Ferburger experience didn't disappoint and it was worth the 40-minute wait for our order! People queue up outside this little place night and day to get their burger fix. It's remarkable how popular they are!


Our first Fergburger!

We went to Ferburger again... twice in four days!

We had booked a day trip to Milford Sound via Kiwi Experience for the following day. They say this place is unmissable during a visit to New Zealand, with a popular saying that missing it would be like going to Egypt and skipping the pyramids. We were picked up from Queenstown at 7am, before travelling for around three and a half hours to Milford Sound, via a short coffee stop in Te Anau. We boarded a fairly small ferry that took us on an hour and a half journey around Milford Sound, which is famous for it's spectacular views, waterfalls and wildlife. We saw lots of New Zealand Fur Seals snoozing on rocks which was pretty cool and the captain also drove the boat into the base of a huge waterfall, so that it sprayed over the boat, which was fun.

I have to say that I was a little disappointed with Milford Sound. It was a very long way each way from Queenstown and it wasn't a great as I hoped it would be. Don't get me wrong, it's still a beautiful place, but it's hugely hyped up and there are many views which are just as good, if not better, on the journeys we have done between places around the country. To be honest, I think we've just been a bit spoilt with the scenery all around the country, so it seemed like a bit of an anti-climax, after travelling so far to get there.

milford sound
Milford Sound boat trip with Emily, Alyssia and Jon

new zealand animals
Sleeping New Zealand Fur Seals

Whilst in Queenstown we tried to sample as many of the awesome food options as possible, including having dinner at The Cow, which was highly recommended to us by a couple of people. The pizzas were good and we loved the garlic loaf [!] but the service was lacking a bit. Cafe Vudu was great for brunch and the Red Rock pub was fun for drinks, pool and live music. We enjoyed chilling by the small beach next to the lake in the afternoon and met up with our friend Claire, who moved to Queenstown a few months ago.

queenstown lake
Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown

queenstown beach
Emily, Alyssia, Jon and myself met up with Claire [right] in Queenstown

We decided to check out the Skyline Gondola and Luge in Queenstown, which we thought would be a good laugh. The gondola was very similar to the main gondola in Verbier, which brought back great snowboarding memories! We then went up a smaller cable car to get to the top of the luge track. We had some basic and brief training from a member of staff and then did a lap on the training run. It was so much fun and way more awesome than we expected it to be! We did a further three runs, but each of these on the much steeper and windier main track. I'd highly recommend you check this out as we loved it! There is a clip of me laughing my head off after having a bit of a crash, in the video posted earlier in this blog post. We had a packed lunch whilst up there and enjoyed the amazing views of Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu.

queenstown luging
Queenstown views from the Luging chair lift

queenstown luging
Chair lift selfie!

queenstown luging
Alyssia and Jon on the Luging chair lift

queenstown luging
Emily racing to the finish on the Luging track

On our last day in Queenstown, we had a lovely evening with Alyssia and Jon, who we were super sad to be leaving the following day, after becoming such great friends in NZ. After our second Fergburger of the week, we went to the Ice Bar, where we enjoyed cocktails in the sub-zero bar, where the walls and features are made entirely from ice, along with the glasses you drink from! Nearly three weeks on, now I am writing this blog post, Alyssia has just got a job at the Ice Bar, which is very cool [literally!] I've seen lots of pictures of friends at ice bars in various locations around the world and had always wanted to go to one. We challenged Jon to lick the ice to see if his tongue would stick to it and we found the photo below hilarious!

ice bar queenstown
Enjoying cocktails at the Ice Bar

ice bar queenstown
Jon licking the ice. "My precious..."

We went to Fat Badger after the Ice Bar, which is popular for big tasty pizzas and huge goblets of beer, for pretty cheap prices. I enjoyed this goblet of cider, which is the equivalent to three handles [about two thirds of a pint a handle]. It was nearly as big as my fat head!

fat badger

On Saturday morning it was time to say a sad goodbye [for now] to Alyssia and Jon and head towards Lake Tekapo, back on the Kiwi Experience bus. Kiwi Experience guarantee you a room at your destination for everyday you travel on the bus, but annoyingly for us, private rooms are often unavailable. When we arrived at the holiday park at Lake Tekapo, there were no double rooms available, so we were offered this retro caravan at a reduced rate for the night. It still had a load of the owners stuff in it and the whole experience was pretty hilarious!

new zealand caravan
Caravan of dreams

new zealand camper van
Breaking Bad campervan at the holiday park

After a glamourous stay in the caravan of dreams, we drove a short distance to the Church of the Good Shepherd on the Kiwi bus in the morning. This is a very pretty old church, situated in front of Lake Tekapo and a great photo opportunity. We also went inside the church to see the view from the large window at the back of the church, which overlooks the pretty lake. 

new zealand church
Church of the Good Shepherd 

new zealand scenery
Lake Tekapo views, next to the Church of the Good Shepherd

After another few hours of driving, we arrived at Christchurch, our final destination on the Kiwi Experience tour. We said goodbye to Jared, our driver for the last few days, who had been friendly and fun. I couldn't resist taking the oh so hilarious photo below outside the YMCA, our hostel for our last night in New Zealand.

It's fun to stay at the...

We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around the city. You probably know that Christchurch was hit by two very large earthquakes, and many thousands of aftershocks, nearly four years ago. Life in Christchurch is still a very long way from being back to normal. Many thousands of buildings and homes were badly damaged or completely destroyed by the earthquakes and the restoration process will take many more years yet. The damage is all too apparent when you see the Cathedral, which has become the centre of much debate over whether it should be flattened and rebuilt from scratch, or lovingly repaired to it's former glory. In another area of town, a temporary 'transitional' cathedral has been erected, with the main body of it made from cardboard tubes. It's a pretty impressive sight inside, but it looks like a fairly ordinary modern building from the outside.

christchurch cathedral
Badly damaged Christchurch Cathedral

cardboard cathedral
Christchurch Cardboard Cathedral 

We met up with my old friend Bex later in the evening, which was a lovely way to spend our last night in New Zealand. Bex has been living in Christchurch for a few years now and having not seen her for a long time, it was great to catch up. We went for a delicious Mexican meal and at newly opened restaurant and had drinks at Tequila Mockingbird, which was a really nice little bar.

christchurch friends
Dinner and drinks with Bex [right]

The following day we got a shuttle bus to the airport, ready to head to our penultimate destination on our epic trip: Melbourne, Australia. We were treated to some final spectacular views from the plane window, including the crystal clear waters of some lakes.

Emily and I had an absolutely incredible three weeks in New Zealand. We were impressed every day by the amazing scenery and did lots of awesome activities. We met some amazing people and met up with some old friends too. It's so nice to have made friends and keep in touch with old ones, who ae living all over the World. 

Thanks for reading! My next posts coming soon will be about the final leg of our adventure in Australia, including Melbourne, The Great Ocean Road and Sydney. I also need to rewind to our trip to Singapore, which I ran out of time to write about while away. 

plane window view
Spectacular final views of New Zealand from the plane

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