Archive for the ‘Wanaka’ Category

Small World

After our breakfast of heated up pains au chocolat we made our way to Te Anau via Queenstown. We had no tea as we couldn’t find a kettle in the Youth Hostel’s kitchen and the saucepans all smelled a bit funny!

Our room just visible on the right.

The drive to Queenstown was pretty scenic but also quite windy at times. Whilst driving through Queenstown in search of a car park I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to see this town again. It was quite busy and I felt like pressing on ahead.

Instead we parked in an underground car park ($2/hour) and made our way out. We weren’t sure which way to go or what we wanted to see or do. I spotted a Youth Hostel and decided we could pop in and ask reception there for a streetmap of QT or directions to the i-site.

While we were waiting our turn at reception, this lady came down the stairs and when she spotted us she exclaimed : “Oh my god, I have been reading your blog!”. I must have looked really puzzled, and although I heard the word “blog”, it didn’t immediately register. She repeated it again and then introduced herself as Chrislyn. Now that definitely rang a bell!

Chrislyn has been travelling around the world with her two lovely children – Rory (8) and Nora (5) whilst her husband is in Iraq, and has commented on our blog a couple of times and we have read about their adventures too.

I admire her a lot as she is travelling on her own with the children, which means making decisions on your own, doing all the driving, cooking, washing, etc … No-one to share the load with. She came across as very cheerful and kind.

Unfortunately we only managed to chat to each other for about 10 minutes as she had parcels to send back home and a shuttle bus to the airport to catch their plane to Australia. We quickly checked up on each other’s itinerary, though. Chrislyn, Rory and Nora will spend 4-5 months in Europe later this year and we really hope they will have time to come and see us.

Our meeting was just so spooky and, I believe, meant to happen. If we had taken a different road to QT and stopped to watch the bungee jumping (as planned), we wouldn’t have met them! If we had wandered around QT on our own or asked someone in the street for directions to the i-site, we wouldn’t have popped into the Youth Hostel and seen them!

For the rest of the day Tim and I kept saying to each other that we just couldn’t believe we met another RTW family who we had actually heard of. I have never believed in things that are meant to happen/be, but I’m beginning to wonder …

We found the i-site in the end further down the road and picked up some useful leaflets. We then made our way around the corner in search of lunch and walked straight past “Subway”, but no, the girls had spotted it too and begged us to have lunch there – so we did.

Then back to the car to drop off drinks and pick up extra fleeces as we were planning on going on the skyline gondola. We walked up the road, bought our gondola tickets and off we went up the mountain.

Nice encouraging sign as you head up for your bungee jump…

Once at the top we went to find the bungee jump platform. But after a good 5 minutes we were thinking of going back down as nobody seemed keen to jump. Just then a family with 4 kids turned up. The eldest daughter had bought her own bungee jump ticket (about £80 for 3 seconds of exhilaration!) and was getting pretty excited. I couldn’t say the same for her poor mother, who was feeling rather nervous. I’m glad to say the jump went really well, and the girl had great fun doing it. Hannah said she might do when she is older – apparently children as young as 10 are allowed to jump (as long as they are heavy enough!).




We then came down again in the gondola, although I reckon Tim would have liked to have come down the luge given half a chance. Both girls felt disappointed at the end; Hannah because we didn’t buy the souvenir photos ($35 for 5 photos) and Ellen because we weren’t going to visit Kiwi Birdlife Park (again too expensive, and there might be other opportunities to see kiwis). We returned to the car and cheered them up by letting them press the lift buttons and open the car boot and offering them a sweetie – they’re easily pleased!

Another two hour drive to Te Anau which went very smoothly. We had received no instructions on where to find the key to our apartment, even though Tim had emailed with a request for information a couple of days ago.

We turned up at 30 McKerrow Street to find the apartment locked. Tim decided to walk around the corner in search of a Redwood Apartments office, but instead found no. 32(!), which was the correct address. We did manage to find the key in the end and let ourselves in. The apartment has a sitting room, small table, small kitchen, bathroom and two bedrooms. We can park the car on the drive under cover and there is a good sized garden for the girls to play in.

After unloading the car, we recharged our batteries with some tea and biscuits before tackling the “Fresh Choice” supermarket to stock up for the week.

An easy dinner of fish, chips and baked beans followed by yoghurt topped with fresh banana and boysenberries. Then diaries for the girls and bedtime reading and time for the grown-ups to catch up on blog entries.
Te Anau sunset panorama

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Puzzling World

We got up promptly, used up the rest of our perishables by eating them for breakfast or making sandwiches with them, finished our last little bits of packing, met up with my parents and managed to get away by 9am. I think the fact that we found our holiday park cabin to be such a squeeze indicates that we are not cut out to be camper-van people. Where would we put all our stuff? How would we survive a rainy day cooped up inside a space only one-tenth the size of our cramped cabin?

We dropped off our keys and then returned our mittens at the Fox Glacier walk place. Then we hit the SH6 south down the coast. Cloud gave way to sunshine and then back to cloud as we covered the 120km of coastal road down to Haast, passing through the rather precariously-named settlement of Ship Creek. (And no, we didn’t have a paddle there…)

At Haast we stopped to fill up the car; the only cafe there didn’t open for another half hour so we got snacks and coffee from a machine in the garage shop. Next the winding climb up to Haast Pass, caught in a convoy of camper-vans; they did at least have the decency to pull in every now and then to let the trailing queues go past. Such a scenic route, and especially lovely on a fine day such as today. Many roadside stopping-places to see waterfalls or to start longer tramps. We paused at Thunder Falls

and later at Cameron Flat (just beyond the pass) to have our picnic lunch with a gorgeous backdrop – forested hillsides with snow peaks in the distance, a placid river meandering down the wide valley floor.


Soon after this we picked up Lake Wanaka on our right and then Lake Hawea on our left, bringing us round to Wanaka itself.


Just as we did last time, we stopped at Puzzling World (just a couple of kilometres short of the town) and spent a diverting few hours there with the girls.

Stuart Landsborough started it all in 1973 when he and his wife built a maze in six weeks, just in time for the holiday season.



The maze still stands, augmented by a host of indoor attractions such as a superb trompe-l’oeil Roman toilet



and several ‘illusion rooms’. Sets of concave faces that the eye perceives as convex and which then appear to rotate as you walk past. An Ames forced perspective room; it looks conventionally cuboidal from the viewing windows, but inside it is a weird distorted shape so that those who walk through it appear to grow or shrink (one back corner is actually a lot closer than the other back corner). Thus giant Hannah and Ellen appear to tower over tiny Daddy.


Also the famous tilted room which is exactly what it says on the tin. But it plays havoc with your sense of balance and it’s most disturbing to walk around in it; too long and you start feeling slightly sick. I suppose your eyes are telling you one thing and your semicircular canals another. Nice tricks like the gravity ‘stairlift’ that seems to run uphill, water flowing from low to high, snooker balls rolling the ‘wrong’ way along a sloping table.

One observation, though; we paid our entry fee and received a hand stamp, but there was no-one to check you as you entered the illusion rooms or the maze.

Just as we remembered from last time, the cafe tables are strewn with a selection of puzzles to entertain you as you sit – in the hope that you might go and buy some afterwards. And the tactic worked – we came away with a ‘Crazy Sheep’ puzzle to keep us occupied on rainy days (16 squares – match half-sheep of the correct colour to make a 4×4 array).



The puzzle shop has ‘tester’ items – try before you buy – and I hereby apologise for removing the ring from a pair of chain-linked horse-shoes (as challenged) and then forgetting how to put it back on again. Later I noticed that this item had disappeared…

Can anyone solve this one?


It was just a brief drive from here to our Wanaka Youth Hostel; this is the one place in our current trip that we also stayed in nine years ago, and we won’t be able to make it a hat-trick because they’re closing it after Easter. We half-remembered the hostel, making a good guess as to which room we stayed in last time, but it reinforces the value of keeping a detailed diary – so much evaporates over time, for instance we have no idea where we ate last time we were here.

We sat in the lounge area and worked on diaries/blog photos. I also flicked through a local newspaper; there was a debate about raising the minimum driving age in New Zealand. From 18 to 21, I wondered? No, up to 18. From 17, like in the UK?

No. The truth was scary, and clearly not widely publicised. Next time we go out for a drive, we should be prepared for the fact that the vehicle coming round the bend may have a 15-year-old at the wheel. Yes, they let fourth-formers (Year 10 students) loose on the roads here. Aaargh! I’m glad we didn’t know that when we arrived in Auckland.

Later we (cautiously) set out to find an Italian restaurant, The Cow, at the other end of town (Post Office Lane). This was recommended to us by the YHA receptionist (she’s only been here five days, mind you) and it seems to be a popular spot for young families. We sat inside to avoid the chill of the wind and ordered garlic bread along with a small prosciutto/plain pizza (half and half). The bread arrived as a starter, and not the GB we are used to, but a small unsliced loaf smeared with garlic and herbs on top. Only when we had finished this did the pizza arrive; a little crispier than I would choose, better than a frozen supermarket one but not up to Uyuni Minuteman standards. On the menu the name of the establishment was placed over a picture of Queen Victoria in her later years, which is a bit harsh on the poor old monarch.

After supper we parked down by the lakefront and explored a bit. The Dough Bin bakery might be a breakfast option, the outdoor clothing outlets were way beyond our budget (Kirsten is looking for a replacement rain jacket) and Hannah soaked up inspiration from the range of dresses on display in shop windows. In the end we whizzed round New World supermarket to buy a replacement hairbrush and a bag of pains au chocolat to warm up tomorrow morning.

We put the girls to bed (the two top bunks) and I made the most of the WiFi link to get our blog photos right up to date for the first time since we arrived in New Zealand. Sadly, things will start to slip behind again as we now have no internet in our accommodation until our final night in Wellington.

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