Last post on New Zealand! Click on part 1, part 2 and part 3 to see my previous posts.
Five Signs You Don't Want to Leave New Zealand:
1. You contemplate purposefully missing your connecting flight and believe you can figure it out later.
2. You feel sad when the amount of time left in your trip is less than the amount of time passed.
3. You research temporary working visa options to extend your stay.
4. You spend your free time practising the Kiwi accent.
5. You stop at every real estate office to look at the listings posted in the window.
After Franz Josef, we took a short detour to Lake Matheson.
The views during this 5 km hike have got to be some of the most beautiful in the world. When the water is calm, you just can't beat the reflection of Mount Cook and Mount Tasman in the lake.
Plus, the view along the path can be quite nice too. This mushroom reminded me of something out of Alice in Wonderland.
Our next destination, Wanaka, was added on to our trip at the recommendation of other travellers. Wanaka has similar views to Queenstown, but is much lower key...at least outside of ski season.
The YHA Wanaka was a great place to unwind. One of the nicest shared spaces and a well-stocked, clean kitchen. They have a nightly movie, making it a great spot to watch the Royal Wedding live.
On the first night our arrival, we visited Relishes Cafe. The place has a really nice vibe, with a large stone fireplace and simplistic decor.
For starter, we order the Warm goats cheese and sweet garlic fondue with char-grilled ciabatta, Kalamata olive and sundried tomato tapenade. Aside from running out of bread before running out of fondue and tepenade, the dish tasted good.
For the main, I order Prawns Fra Diavolo, chilli marinated prawns tossed with a garlic tomato sauce over steamed broccoli and spaghetti. Broccoli probably wouldn't be my first choice of vegetable to put with the dish. But, I was particularly impressed with the generous portion of shrimp. So often, I find restaurants skimp on shrimp. I think I counted 12 large shrimp.
R got a lamb dish. He really enjoyed the lamb and sauce, but was less enthusiastic about the rice pilaf.
The service was mixed. I felt like the server was annoyed with us. It started when we walked in and waited at the door for someone to seat us. When no one noticed us (the restaurant was practically empty), we figured we should just seat ourselves. Then, we were told that we couldn't sit at the table we had sat at because the spot was reserved and that we could only sit at a table with shared seating. All of that would be fine, but I would rather be told that before sitting down (or if that's not possible, put a reserved sign on the table). It kind of felt like a punishment to be sent to be removed from the tables at the front to the shared tables at the back, when it really doesn't have to be.
The online reviews are mainly positive, so maybe it was just an one-off situation.
Although the air starts to get a bit chillier the further south you go. We had beautiful weather throughout our trip. We decided to take advantage of the weather by walking to and hiking up Mt. Iron. There are other, longer hikes in the area (if you're looking for a full day or multi-day hike. Mt. Iron provides nice views of Wanaka, the lakes and mountains as you ascend.
The view is so beautiful, photos just don't do it justice.
As an added bonus, the mountain is right by Puzzling World, which would be fun for kids or for adults who don't feel discouraged by their inability to solve any puzzles.
Do you ever have a moment that is so perfect that you feel compelled to remember every detail? Sitting by Lake Wanaka with the warm sun would have to be one of those moments.
The next day, we left for the nearby Queenstown. Everyone who has been to New Zealand speaks highly of Queenstown. Between the beautiful scenery, nightlife, restaurants, extreme sports and winter skiing, many travellers spend a good deal of time there.
R decided that he couldn't go to NZ without risking his life in some way. For me, driving on the left side of the road was enough. But, R decided to take bungee to a new level with the Canyon Swing. The swing starts on a platform on the edge of a cliff 109m/360ft above the Shotover River. Each jumper picks a jump style and rather than a traditional up and down bungee, the harness is connected to the centre of the canyon, resulting in a swing at the end of the drop.
Check out the multimedia video I took, below. R is the first jumper in the video. For some crazy reason, R really felt that hanging upside down while waiting for someone else to release the cord would be the least scary. Keep an eye out for the small swinging figures that appear at the bottom of the canyon.
It was quite amusing to watch people after their jumps. You can see them just shaking from the adrenaline. One guy, apparently thinking ahead, brought a litre of milk with him to drink after his jump. Poor guy, the employees toyed with him for 2 minutes as he waited for them to let go of the strap preventing the chair he was in from tumbling backwards. Yeah - that sounds weird -- he was waiting to fall backwards in a chair.
The next day, we took a daytrip to Milford Sound. Located in Fjordland National Park, a 3 hour cruise will take you through the sound with views of spectacular fjords and waterfalls.
We had the option to drive our own rental vehicle, but opted to take a coach there. Really glad we went that route too because some of the roads can be a bit intimidating and it would be pretty exhausting to drive the distance (about 3 hours each way) in one day. Another option would be to fly to the sound or depart by vehicle from Te Anau, which is about half way between Queenstown and Milford Sound.
Again, we had beautiful weather, which is not the norm. It was so clear that we even had a good view of Mitre Peak, which is often hidden by clouds and fog.
What you don't see in this picture is the sandflies that are relentless at Milford Sound, as you wait for the boat to depart. They are particularly attracted to dark colours, so bring bug spray and light coloured clothing.
Here's a map of our route on the last leg of the trip:
View Larger Map
Last step was a quick flight with Jetstar, from Queenstown to Auckland. We were very glad that we had booked this flight because the drive back would be around 20 hours and the gas would be more expensive than the flight. This is an important note -- gas is very expensive in New Zealand....around $2.20NZ/litre. After conversion, that's about $1.80CDN/litre, a good 50-60 cents more per litre than prices at home. It adds up.