Shumpty on tour: Skyline Gondola, Coronet Peak and Rugby

Apologies for the late blog, was caught up watching the first games of the Super 15 last night (those of you who missed my preview should should check out pinkrugby.com). Two very close games that both went down to the last minute of the game with the Highlanders and the Rebels securing wins.

Yesterday on your saw your correspondent face a fear of heights in going up the Skyline Gondola and really test out the Yaris going up Coronet Peak. They say a picture tells a thousand words and so for today’s blog I thought I would share my favourite pictures from both places as nothing I can say could do either place justice.

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This is the view from the Gondola looking towards the magnificent Lakes that surround Queenstown.

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And that was the view from Coronet Peak.

Am sure you will agree that nothing I can say can improve or describe the photos which really just speak for themselves!

Today am heading to Wanaku to check out the National Transport and Toy Museum and to have a general snoop around. Will post some photos from today and more commentary tonight.

Till then.

Shumpty.

Shumpty on tour: a slow day in Qtown

A very quiet day on tour today. Part of the idea behind this holiday was to not have too much planned and if the day dawned and I did not want to do much I simply would not. Today was an overcast and drizzly day for most of it and to be frank I did next to nothing but eat, write my preview for this weeks round of Super Rugby (viewable at pinkrugby.com) and do some shopping for gifts for family and friends.

This blog is fast becoming all about food and that is fine with me: I love good food. This morning I headed into the city centre and visited Eichardts Private Hotel right on the front. I confess, as I noted on twitter, that Eichardts is not the usual place I would breakfast but the again the food was grand and the service was good. As I was dining on account of a voucher kindly given to me by a friend, it made the nosh all the more sweet. I will be back there for lunch tomorrow to check out the main menu (there are still funds left on said voucher).

A tapas lunch in the dining room at the hotel (my usual objections to tapas and other forms of shared food dissipate on holiday) was followed by a curry takeaway. No complaints about either.

As I said today was an extremely lazy day! Tomorrow will be much more interesting as I brave the Gondola. For the uninitiated I am a little bit bothered by heights, so tomorrow mornings events could be amusing for all sharing the Gondola with me!

Sorry to all for the abridged post but I really have little to say today. Bring on tomorrow!

Shumpty

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