Shumpty on tour: Arrowtown

You are going to get sick of me saying this, but today was another perfect day on tour. The sky was again clear and the weather crisp. A short road trip today to Arrowtown was on the agenda. Arrowtown had been recommended to me by two different people for the food: one recommendation was for the local bakery and the other was for the restaurant Saffron. More about them later.

Arrowtown is about more than just the food. It was, in 1862, a settlement set up to take advantage of the burgeoning gold rush in the Arrow River which runs past the town. Much of the old town remains or has been restored with the main street still cobble stone in some parts and the trees which dominate the towns skyline, sycamore and oak trees, a legacy of the early settlers in the town.

One of the high lights for me was exploring the Chinese Settlement. This was a settlement just outside the town in which immigrant Chinese miners resided from 1869 to take advantage of the gold rush. The story of their segregation from the town and the fact that some original artefacts and buildings remain from the original settlement make visiting the settlement a must for anyone visiting Arrowtown and more than a bit moving to boot!

The shopping is said to be good in Arrowtown but it must be said that is true only if you are looking for Merino wool products, the art of locals or generic souvenirs of New Zealand. The wallet stayed firmly in the pocket of this traveller save for the purchase of food.

Now, back to food, first up in Arrowtown was a visit to the bakery. The pies on offer all looked good and I decided to try the mince bolognese pie which is billed as the “best hangover cure”. Whilst I was not hungover I definitely did enjoy it.

By the time lunch time rolled around I was really looking forward to sitting down at Saffron. The wraps on the place are huge and to be honest … Totally justified!!!! Service 10 out of 10, food 10 out of 10 and the price more than reasonable! I went for the green chicken curry and it was a delight. Not so overpowering as to render the eater a mute but hot enough to leave a sting in the mouth. I liked it so much I am going back on Sunday night for dinner on my last night in Queenstown.

The afternoon was again a lazy one: TV, a few work emails and more reading of Anthony Summers’ excellent book on J. Edgar Hoover. Is a brilliant read.

The weather looks like it is turning a bit nasty tomorrow which may mean another road trip is on the cards. No plans as yet but will ponder overnight.

Till tomorrow.

Shumpty

Shumpty on tour: Invercargill to Queenstown

Another day of my New Zealand adventure beckoned when the alarm went off early this morning to reveal a clear but cold day. 2 degrees when I awoke and 4 degrees when the mighty Yaris cranked up to head to Queenstown turned into a day much like a Brisbane winter day: warm in the sun, bright blue sky and cold in the shade.

After bidding my excellent hosts at Beersheba farewell, an executive decision was made to go off the main highway and follow the Southern Scenic Route to Queenstown. Those who know me well will readily acknowledge that a risk taker I am not and I never take the road less travelled when an easier route presents. This time I am glad I went against my usual instinct because the drive to Queenstown today is the new highlight of the trip so far by panels.

The first hour and half was filled with breath taking mountains on either side, small creeks to cross and the obligatory camper vans to pass. Lumsden was my pit stop spot and I enjoyed the fare at the local cafe immensely: equally the cafe was freezing inside and I was happy to get back in the Yaris and push on.

The last 45 minutes of the drive presented easily the most breathtaking scenery I have ever seen in a drive. Lake Wakatipu and the drive around it was just amazing. There are no other words. Whilst I had to concentrate on the road as it is windy and, due respect presumed, the camper van drivers were on struggle street at every turn in the road a new improved view presented itself. Nonetheless after a while I found it necessary to stop at one of the lookouts and spent some time taking all of the scenery in. Of course I took a heap of photos which I will publish soon (need to work out how to get pictures from memory card to iPad).

I have committed myself to going back along the road whilst I am here (Queenstown is my base of operations for the next six days) to spend some time taking it all in and to take some more pictures.

I am staying in this part of the trip at the Rees Hotel which is a very new hotel about 5 mins from the city centre of Queenstown. To say I am chuffed with my digs would be an understatement. I reckon there are about 10 people in the hotel, everything is new and the view is immense (twitter followers can check out the photo @shumpty77). Also, because the place is new, the staff are bending over backwards to be helpful which is good now but may become grating by the end of the week!

All in all I think the next six days are going to be wonderful and to say I like Queenstown would be an understatement. I have no set plans for each day yet but know I am heading to Arrowtown tomorrow to test out the renowned Saffron restaurant and have a bit of a look around.

Also today I was sad to learn of the passing of Jim Stynes. He was a great AFL player and his efforts after his retirement should be a road map for all retired sportsmen. He will be sorely missed by not only the AFL community but the broader community at large. RIP Jim.

Shumpty

Shumpty on tour: Invercargill and Bluff

After another great sleep (I seem to be going to bed at a normal time NZ time and then waking up at my normal time, if I was in Aus … 3 extra hours sleep rocks!) I opened the curtains to see that whilst the North Island was being drowned under a tropical storm, another perfect NZ day beckoned. Blue sky with a slight chill in the air was much better than the torrential rain of yesterday.

Today I decided to head to the southern most point of mainland New Zealand: the fishing town of Bluff and, more particularly, Stirling Point. It is a 25 minute drive south of Invercargill and for anyone down in these parts is well worth the effort.

First stop in Bluff was Stirling Point: right on the end of the New Zealand mainland. This point is a very popular spot with tourists who get their photos taken with the sign the signifies the start of Highway 1 in New Zealand. I chose to not get my photo among the phalanx of tourists at the spot and pointed the hire Yaris up the hill to the Bluff Lookout. After a struggle through the gears and a mildly worrying ride for someone a bit bothered by heights, I found one of the most breathtaking views I have seen in any of my travels.

360 degree views of the ocean to the west, south and east, the bay at Bluff and to the North the mainland. It was just great to be up there virtually on my own. I took some great pictures and will publish them in coming blogs. A sombre moment as I returned to my car was seeing two camera crews setting up to take pictures of the latest round of search boats returning to port after continuing to look for survivors of the sinking of the Easy Rider. Such a sad story and one that may see large changes in maritime safety over here.

Lunch today was at the Anchorage Bar and Cafe: the famous Bluff oysters were off the menu for me (seafood and I do not agree) but I had a great meal and a bit of a chat to some of the locals.

After driving home I decided to spend the afternoon at my cabin with feet up, following twitter updates of the Queensland Bulls victory in the Sheffield Shield whilst drinking a cold Speight’s in front of the fire. Another brilliant way to spend an afternoon on holidays.

I can not let today pass without two comments about sporting events of the day:

1. The Bulls won: bloody brilliant news. Whilst I am gutted I was not there for the final run to be scored that fact makes me no less proud of the boys. A brilliant team effort from a team that does not get the kudos it deserves and a great coaching effort from Darren “Boof” Lehman.

2. It was announced that Dan Carter MIGHT be back for the Crusaders this weekend. This was the first story on the news on NZ television, before the floods in the Northland and the chronic Marmite shortage over here. I will say it again: they love their rugby over here!

Tomorrow I will be heading to Queenstown. A lazy 200 kilometres up the road.

A final comment on Invercargill: many of you will have read my whine that the wifi was not working at the cottage I am in. It was fixed today and the proprietor stopped by tonight to give me back some of the money I had paid for the room for the inconvenience. Totally unnecessary and a measure of the class of the bloke. I am yet to meet a bad person since I have been over here and I hope that continues!

Onto tomorrow and Queenstown.

Shumpty

Shumpty on tour: Dunedin to Invercargill

After two wonderful days in Dunedin it was time to move on from the Rossyln apartments and head southward to Invercargill. The day did not get off to the best of starts with the owners of the apartments I was staying telling me that there was nothing to do in Invercargill. Nonetheless, I loaded up the trusty Yaris and set off.

Two comments about driving in New Zealand: there are camper vans everywhere and drivers are more impatient than any I have ever encountered. These factors certainly made the 221km drive in my tiny hire car more interesting than I expected. Adding to the joy of the drive was the rain which went from mist to torrential in about 5kms just outside Dunedin and has stayed that way since.

On the way I stopped at the hamlet of Milton and tested out the only Cafe in town. Yet again I was struck by how friendly the people were and taking the recommendation of the waitress tried out the toasted cheese. I know this is in breach of the current no bread diet I am on but I was starving and it looked good! I can report that it tasted better than it looked and four slices later, the Yaris was again pushing southward with the traffic.

It was also on this trip that I discovered, to my surprise, that shops just do not open in New Zealand on Sunday. When I stopped in Gore to stretch my legs a survey of the shops in the main street showed only the cares and a fast food joint open.

By the time I got to Invercargill all I wanted was to sit on the lounge BUT my tactical error in not getting a GPS came back to bite me on the buttocks as I got hopelessly lost. 40 frustrating minutes later I finally found the B & B I had booked into just outside of town.

A surprising fact about grocery shopping in NZ: Woolworths is not known as Woolworths but Countdown … I only realised after driving past 3 times. A weird aside I know there but along with checking out buildings the little differences between Brisbane the world continue to amuse me every time I see one!

The B & B I am saying in is called Beersheba and I have the main cottage with a private garden. It is very quiet and peaceful and with the fire roaring I can hardly tell the rain is still pounding down. That will change though as I have discovered that the only way I can access the wifi here is in the middle of the back garden. Tomorrow, before heading to Bluff to check out the harbour and then to the museum in honour of the guy in the moving the “the worlds fastest Indian”, it will be straight to an NZ telecom store for a sim card.

All in all, I am still in love with NZ and looking forward to exploring this old fishing town tomorrow.

Till then: thank you for reading. I know this post has been a little boring but it has been a very relaxed day today.

Shumpty

A day in Dunedin: Speight’s brewery tour

Day 2 of the Shumpty on Tour tour of Southern New Zealand began with a sleep in and a coffee on the balcony under the bluest of blue skies. Have I mentioned how much I love the weather here?

When I finally got motivated to head into the city centre of Dunedin my preferred mode of transport was my own two feet. This is a great place to walk around and it is ridiculously easy to find where you need to go. After a 15 minute down hill stroll I made it to the Octagon which is the central hub of the city. Whilst it was only 11am the Irish were out and about in abundance celebrating St Patricks Day. I hope all of my Irish friends celebrated with appropriate vigour.

Whenever I travel to a city I like to check out the architecture and particularly the churches. Not because I am particularly religious but because I am fascinated by the structures. I was particularly enamoured with the St Peters Anglican cathedral today which is just off the hub.

After wandering around for a while it was time to head to the Speight’s brewery for the main game of the day. For those of you who don’t know the Speight’s story, Speight’s beer has been brewed in Dunedin for nearly 125 years and is brewed in a brewery that sits in the middle of town. Simply, Speight’s is to South Islanders what XXXX is to Queenslanders.

The tour was brilliant: our tour guide was the great grandson of one of the founders of the brewery. Needless to say he knew his topic. The tour was broken up with 30 minutes about the history of beer, 30 minutes walking around the brewery and a 30 minute tasting season. My favourite story of the trip was how until the 1950s it was encouraged that the workers had a drink during the day. Each of the 8 floors of the brewery had a bar on them. The only catch was that you could not get drunk!!! Imagine working there in those times: would have been immense.

During the tasting session I had a yarn with our guide: an interesting chap in his own right who had worked around the world as an engineer and returned to Dunedin to retire. Great bloke and it was great to have a beer with him. For the record my favourite beer during the tasting was the Speight’s Summit!

After the tour, it was time for lunch in the Speight’s Ale house where, as I have found everywhere this trip, the service was excellent and the food very good. After the tasting and the feed I could not face the return walk up the hill to the apartment so hitched a ride with a friendly cabbie.

Suitably refreshed after an afternoon nap, I am now just watching the end of the Hurricanes v Highlanders game which, at the time of writing looks a cracking contest that will go down to the wire.

Tomorrow it is time to move on for this great place and drive down to Invercargill. Will be sad to leave but looking forward to forward to getting down there an looking around.

All in all: another great day on holiday. Till tomorrow.

Shumpty

Brisbane to Dunedin … The tour begins

Well having started to write about cricket and rugby I thought I would branch out and write about stuff that interests me on a daily basis.  Hence this is the first post of Shumpty on Tour.

Today in my first day visiting the South Island of New Zealand and as first days go it has been very good.  Firstly let me say that Virgin Australia was brilliant.  On time, friendly staff and it never hurts to upgrade one to the exit row seats.  It is a little thing but was very much appreciated!

Three and a half hours in the air and I arrived in sunny but chilly Dunedin.  I don’t know what it is about New Zealand but this place just lifts my spirits every time I arrive.  The air is clean, the weather crisp and the people friendly.

I am staying in Roslyn which is a suburb high in the hills above downtown Dunedin.  The apartment is lovely and sits just down the road from the town centre of Roslyn. After sipping a Monteith’s Black on my balcony in the chilly air I wandered down to the restaurant recommended to me by the landlord of mapartments: a little place called Luna?  To say I had a great meal would be an understatement.  Chicken parmigiana with pesto fettuccini was just what the doctor ordered after a long day travelling.  Anyone coming to this neck of the woods ought check it out.

The only negative in my day has been the discovery that my apartment does not have pay tv and thus the rugby is not readily available for viewing.  Thank goodness for live updates on Twitter.

It is onto tomorrow then and a visit to the Speights brewery.  This may well be the highlight of the whole trip.

Anyhow, time for me to sign off.  Till tomorrow all.

Shumpty77