Shumpty on tour: the trip review

Today dawns as the final day of my 12 day trip to the South Island of New Zealand which leaves me to reflect on this trip and to consider the good, the bad and the ugly from being on tour:

The Good

New Zealand in general

I just love this place so it is easy for me to say that as a travel experience New Zealand ticks all of the right boxes. Specifics to follow.

The food

As establish in earlier blogs, I love food but am no gourmet. That said the food I have experienced on this trip has been nothing short of excellent. From “the best meal of my life” at Saffron through to the simplest cheese toastie at the cafes of small towns like Milton and Roxborough, everything put in front of me on plate has been eaten with relish and joy.

The drives

I had never really considered New Zealand as a place to come for a driving holiday but two particular drives left me breathless and my palms more than a bit sweaty: Invercargill to Queenstown by the Southern Scenic Route and Queenstown to Wanaka over the Crown Range. The former gets the nod because of the sheer beauty of the scenery that invades your senses as you drive first through lush farming country and then along side Lake Wakapitu. The later is a windy, curving drive over the range which had me holding my breath in the mighty Yaris on more than one occasion.

The people

Aussies and Kiwis have had and will always have a love hate relationship. That point acknowledged, and this is something that also came through on my last trip to these shores, every person I met on the trip was always keen for chat, willing to help and always had a smile on their face. It is the people of New Zealand that will get me coming back again.

The bad

Camper van drivers

As regular readers will be aware a lot of time on this trip has been spent on the road. Which has meant a large amount of time has been spent behind Camper vans. Now I appreciate that the roads are narrow in points and a camper van is a heavy piece of machinery to drive but it must be said that the most worrisome moments I had whilst running the Yaris around NZ were when I encountered camper vans. Education program’s for their drivers are a must me thinks.

The ugly

Hitchhikers

The only really negative of my whole experience in New Zealand was seeing the plethora of hitchhikers waiting desperately for lifts on the side of the road. No doubt a large part of tourism in NZ is back packer based however it struck me that such a large number of young people begging for rides, particularly young ladies, is just a recipe for danger. Forgive me for getting on the pulpit on this it it was just something that bothered me every time I saw it and I was seeing it every day.

All in all though I have had one of the best holidays I have had on this trip. A measure of how good any holiday one has, I think, is how you feel on your last day of said holiday. I feel refreshed, relaxed and ready for home: which indicates for me that this has been a pretty good trip.

Thank you all for reading. I hope you have enjoyed this blog as much as I have enjoyed writing it.

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