Tag Archives: Queenstown


Day 16 – In Transit, Rotorua, New Year’s Eve

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Categories: In Transit, New Zealand, South Pacific, Trip 2014, Tags: , , , , ,

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Today we began the day at 7am in the town of Wanaka, about an hour north of Queenstown on the South Island of New Zealand.  We will ring in 2015 from accommodation 5 minutes’ drive from the town centre in Rotorua on the North Island, New Zealand.  It’s been a hectic day.

In Transit

We initially woke up with time to spare, but then fell asleep again, and did not actually rise until about 7:45am.  Luckily we’d put most of our bags into the hire car the night before so even with less time than planned, we still managed to get everyone fed and/or bathed and into the car and out the door just a fraction after 8am – around 8:10am to be more exact.

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As predicted the previous day, we met the day with scattered showers and a storm (including thunder and lightning).  This is really NOT what you want in addition to trying to get south of Wanaka in a hurry.  The Crown Pass, mercifully, was not busy – we only encountered a tiny handful of other cars going in either direction – so we made excellent time across the range.  It was  a few minutes after 9am and we snuck into a petrol station just shy of the Queenstown airport.

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Friends Toni and Matt met us at the car hire return place and we handed off some food supplies to them and had a brief chat about how their holiday was progressing.  They kindly minded the boys while we attended to checking in and applying baggage labels to bags.  Once the bags were dropped, we bid them adieu and continued on through security to the waiting gate.

The connecting flight from Queenstown to Christchurch was for the most part uneventful, although it felt like the plane was caught up in the middle of this storm front which was slowly rolling over the South Island.  The landing in Christchurch was a bit bumpy, but we all survived and the boys were almost perfect little angels during the whole thing.  Poor (sick) D was stymied from an attempt at a well deserved morning nap though.

The wait in Christchurch was minimal owing to the fact we had to get from one side of the airport to the other.  We spent a little bit of time waiting but then the gates opened and we headed off to a smaller plane for the return flight to Rotorua.  This flight started off fine, but just outside Christchurch we hit some serious turbulence which sent the contents of my cup of tea flying into the bulkhead above and then onto the headrest of the chair in front of me.  Aside from that, the rest of the trip passed without incident.


We landed in good time and were met at the gate by our host from the Best Western.  Our luggage literally came off the carousel first, so we didn’t have to wait long before we were on our way once again, this time to accommodation on the western side of town.  We had a decent chat as we made our way, and starting making some plans for the rest of the day.  By the time we arrived we were all set to do some exploration, so once we had the room key, we changed nappies on both boys and then set about exploring.


We investigated the grounds of the motel first, Jake spent some time climbing on the playground equipment first, before we all headed out, and up – to the Rotorua Skyline.  The Skyline predates the one in Queenstown by more than a decade.  It is conveniently located just across from where we’re staying, so it was a logical choice as a destination.  Taking advantage of weather which had been forecast to be raining (which it was not!) we decided to go up and do some more luge.

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The view from the top was actually quite impressive, taking in most of Lake Rotorua.  You could even see where our previous accommodation was, across the water.


We paid for 7 luge rides, and we exercised them in the following order: Myself + Jake (Scenic/Luge #1), Toni + Jake (Scenic/Luge #1), Myself (intermediate/Luge #2), Myself (Advanced/Luge #2), Toni (Scenic/Luge #1), Myself + Jake (Intermediate/Luge #1)), Myself + Jake (Intermediate/Luge #1).

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As you might have noticed, there were two separate luge stations, the second one closed a bit early so I was unable to do the advanced track there a second time (it was awesome).  You weren’t allowed to do tandems down the advanced, so I did not do the advanced route at Luge #1.  The slowest part was the chairlift back to the top, but it did allow an opportunity for a few photos here and there.  Jake was utterly thrilled by the luge, and we decided to buy him a T-shirt to remember the day from.

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After an enjoyable afternoon up the hill, we started our return gondola ride just after 5:00pm with a group of tired, but happy campers.


Back at the motel (across the road), everyone including a very tired Damian, were still a little restless.  So we explored the motel grounds and, in particular, rounded the trout stream which runs across the property boundary.  Jake insisted on a return to the playground, where he met another little boy and they had fun on the sea saw. 


We chatted to his mother for a while as the kids played and then Toni turned up  with Damian.  We were there until about 6:20pm when we needed to go back to the room.  Dinner was booked for 6:30pm at the on site restaurant, which was excellent.  Our host kept Jake occupied whilst Toni and I managed to eat our mains.  We had an entree (each) of asparagus with fried haloumi, Toni had the lamb rack and I had salmon glazed miso. 


Once dinner had finished, we returned to the room where the boys were washed and eventually put to bed.  I went with them, and Toni not long after.  I stirred around 10:20pm and decided to write this entry.  We’re about 50 minutes away from midnight and the dawning of 2015.  Tomorrow we are in transit, yet again, back to Sydney – however we have more adventure planned.

Happy New Year

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Day 7 – Queenstown to Wanaka

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Categories: In Transit, New Zealand, South Pacific, Trip 2014, Tags: ,

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We woke up after a rather remarkably calm night, both boys did miraculously well in sleeping through the night.  Jake woke up and thought he was elsewhere – tried to open the hotel room door to go looking for us!  We were in no particular rush, check out wasn’t until 11am. 


So we spent time carefully packing up the room, and then headed to steamer’s wharf for breakfast.  Toni had been given a recommendation for a place called Patagonia, which sells chocolate but  also freshly ground coffee and croissants. 


I ordered the breakfast croissants (3) which came with delectable blackberry conserve, butter, chocolate and clotted  cream.  Toni had chocolate croissants and we both had espresso, although Toni’s order got mangled and in the end she had to mix hers with Jake’s milkshake.


On the way back to the Novotel, we again walked past the lake on our way to the playground Jake and I had visited yesterday.


We spent about half an hour at the playground, enjoying the scenery.  Queenstown was practically deserted compared to the previous day, despite the fact that the weather was markedly better.  There was still a fair bit of cloud, but it was high and the mountains were clear – and, blessedly, NO RAIN!


Eventually we made our way back to the Novotel and began the procedure of checking out and packing the car (parked awkwardly for us at the mouth of the hotel driveway).  We set off in our crappy hire car, heading east and eventually north out of Queenstown.


The road took us across familiar territory – we’d roughly flown in across the path the previous day.  However, as we got further out – particularly as we passed Arrowtown – we turned off the state highway and took the Crown ridge north direct to Wanaka.  The road winds up and eventually on top of a mountain range.  We stopped twice to take photographs looking back south towards where we’d came from.

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The road ahead was windy but surprisingly in very good condition.  Quite wide, most of the time, and highlighted with crops of these very colourful flowers, shaded in pink, purple, yellow and green.  The road meandered into a descent as we started to approach a very large valley.  A stream (or small river) ran alongside the road once we’d cleared the range actual.
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As the valley grew, and the mountains moved off a tiny amount, we found ourselves driving directly into the lakeside retreat of Wanaka.



Our first logical stop was at the Wyndham Wanaka resort.  We found our way there effortlessly, as it is just off the main road but in the opposite direction of the town center.  We pulled in around 12:15pm and I went into reception which was being manned by a woman who was busy on the phone.  I waited patiently for a few minutes until she put the phone on hold, then abruptly left the desk without even acknowledging me.  Another women came out shortly after and asked me what I wanted.

I explained we’d like to check in, and gave my name.  The dour woman returned as the second woman looked up our details.  There was a slight snort of derision from the rude woman and the other woman told me  as we’re in an apartment it wouldn’t be ready until 4pm.  I was then asked if I knew where the town centre was, which I replied in the affirmative.  She took my number and said she’d ring if the room was available any earlier.  That’s a very unacceptable experience for an owner (or even a guest of an owner) to experience.

So that was that.. we’d have to lug our luggage around with us, plus two kids under the age of three for four hours in medium heat.  I left very annoyed at the lack of professionalism and the rudeness mainly of the first woman.  Later I looked up the check in times and it was indeed 4pm, however I still fumed that they could have offered to mind our  bags, or provide me with some advice on how to kill 4 hours until check in time.

Fuming, I returned to the car and suggested that we start killing time at a park on the lake foreshore we’d spotted on the way in.

Lake Wanaka

We stopped near the play equipment and as we started to get out, Damian fell asleep in his car seat.  Toni and Jake went to the play equipment where two other kids were playing, their parents up in a nearby shaded seated area preparing lunch.

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I walked to the lake side where I started snapping the lake and mountains.  Two ducks were wandering the shore and I managed a few photos with one or both of them as foreground subjects.  A woman walked the beach and came over to ask me if I’d visited any Otago regional wineries.  I said we’d just arrived, but given my other interests I asked what were good wineries in the region to look at.  Turns out they plant a lot of Pinot Noir in the area.

Heading back to the car, we decided to try to locate lunch in the town centre.  Damian was still asleep, but we decided we’d have no choice but to wake him.  The town centre was packed full of people, and we simply could not find a place to (legally) park.  So I made a call, and redirected us to an attraction just outside of town, on the way to the nearby town of Cromwell..

Puzzling World


The location was called Puzzling World, and it contained all things puzzling (3D, visual effects etc) and a huge maze.  It was on Toni’s hit list and we (correctly) figured we’d be able to kill a few hours there.  The first thing you notice upon arrival is the tall building on an abnormal angle (pictured).  We arrived and paid the admission and entered the illusion rooms first.

Illusion Rooms

There were many illusions, too numerous to mention here.  The first room contained framed holograms, and led to a ‘tilted house’ where the whole room was on an angle, and featured illusions “defying” gravity.  This led to a large area where a hologram lady spoke about the rooms, and introduced the next – the room of faces.


The Ames’ room was particularly fun and a camera set up at the opposite end of the room fed to a LCD TV outside with a 2 minute delay, so you could see yourself “to scale” afterwards (pictured).    There was also a huge room of faces, the faces being built concave so that the faces appear to follow you across the room.

Even the bathrooms had some degree of illusion, the floor being painted in a way which made it look like it fell away into another dimension.


The new section had visual illusions which were based on the mind’s ability to identity background and foreground shapes.  There was even a life-like wax statue of the creator of the place looking over the room.

We returned to the cafe and had some lunch (pie, sausage roll and noodles for the boys) before attempting..

The Great Maze


A wooden labyrinth which consisted of four coloured towers.  The idea was to visit all four towers and then exit the maze.  For greater difficulty, one could attempt to visit specific towers in order.  We had two young boys, so we decided we’d aim for which ever tower we could get to, order unimportant. 

The Great Maze

We eventually found our way to all four towers, and it took nearly an hour to do so.  The boys seemed to enjoy it, but they were getting over tired and we took the ‘emergency exit’ out once we’d found all four towers.

Jake is aMAZEd

We checked out the gift shop and then returned to the car.  It was now 3:20pm and we decided to hit up the New World supermarket for food and supplies before attempting the resort again.

The town centre was no less busy when we returned, and we battled our way through the supermarket to locate what we needed.  We ended up leaving early because there were too many people to deal with and the boys were getting too restless and noisy.

Downtown Wanaka

Resort 2.0

It was just past 4pm as we left the town center and returned once again to the resort.  Toni went in to conduct the check in procedure and this time different staff were on hand.  They apologised for the experience from earlier and even came out to the car and apologised to me in person.  They gave us some pool towels and helped us find our room.  It’s not an understatement to say that this helped, although I must admit even a day later I’m still a bit unimpressed with the other staff from the first attempt at checking in.

We moved all our luggage and groceries up into the room, which is on the second level, overlooking the pool and spa. 

Outside the resort

Pool and Spa

Master bedroom

View from our balcony

After a long spell in the pool with the boys, we eventually ended up back in the apartment at 5:30pm, cooked dinner and began the bed time routine for both boys.  Damian went down at 7pm and an hour later Toni took off back to the supermarket.  I put Jake down at 8:30pm without a fight and then resumed writing yesterday’s article.

When Toni returned we cooked a quick dinner which I screwed up (Caesar salad) before a bit of light TV and eventually bed.

We don’t have an agenda for today (Day 8), but stay tuned for more.

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Day 6 – Queenstown [Part 2 of 2]

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Categories: New Zealand, South Pacific, Trip 2014, Tags: , , ,

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This article continues on from yesterday’s “Part 1” of our overnight stay in Queenstown.

When we left off, we’d just checked into the Novotel and had dumped our bags and things in the hotel room.  Damian and Jake both needed nappy changes, so these were attended to first.  By the time we’d began to get our bearings, this happened:


Poor D, he was tuckered out from the early start and all the flying.  Toni looked quite tired too, so she volunteered to stay and keep Damian company whilst Jake and I did some exploring of the local area.  Jake and I set off towards the waterfront, and then deviated left towards the gardens which resemble Stanley Park in Vancouver.  The weather was still somewhat miserable with pockets of sunlight mixed with pockets of light rainfall.  Luckily we both had fleecy lined jackets and light rain jackets.

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On our way we passed a playground, and since Jake had been so good during all the flights and with the early start, I helped him climb and slide down the equipment for about 20 minutes.  Then we started walking around the edge of the gardens, taking in sights of the city and the amazing mountainous backdrop surrounding it. 


My aim was to get to the tip of the gardens, for a better view of the mountains to the south of Queenstown.  What you see here (above) is the result – unfavourable weather made it difficult to get a sense of the height of the surrounding mountains.  It was jaw droppingly beautiful though, it reminded me a little of Vancouver.  On our way back through the gardens proper (walking through the center of the park) we came across a stream with a curved bridge, tennis courts and a bowling green.


Once back at the waterfront, Jake had an extra 5 minutes on the play equipment and then I had to haul him back to the Novotel as I was about 15 minutes late – I said we’d be gone about half an hour!  Once back, Damian stirred, so it was time to go hunting for a late lunch.  Dropping the jackets and just keeping the raincoats allowed us to move around with less bulk.


We finally had lunch after circling the main CBD area (between the mall and church street) and opted for Devil Burgers.  I had the chili one, naturally.  Toni took D for a walk and returned with cookies from a place we’d passed when navigating the area :)  After lunch we walked the waterfront to steamer’s wharf.  Toni wanted to locate a supermarket, so we walked uphill based on a map I had torn out of a visitor’s guide.



We ended up on the road which led to the cable car which we’d seen from our hotel room.  Since we were in the area… 
We paid the money and took a journey uphill – a long way uphill – to the Queenstown skyline!

Cable car adventure!

At the top was a huge viewing platform with shops and a restaurant.  There were adrenalin rides such as bungy jumping and canyon swinging on offer, as well as… luge!  We walked outside initially, to stand above a tunnel which luge riders were zooming through.  A nice lady offered to take a family picture of us together.  It started to rain more heavily, so we retreated back inside the complex, and found our way past a jelly belly store (Jake tried a sample) and out onto a viewing platform which was partially covered.



At the edge of the platform looking south east, we could see a rainbow forming over Queenstown!  Eventually we went back outside as the rain stopped, and Toni mentioned how much she thought Jake might like the luge.  So I volunteered to shadow him down the mountain.

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Once the ride was over, and we’d taken in as much of the awesome spectacle which is the Queenstown skyline, we descended back down the mountain, and resumed our search for the supermarket…. which we found, incidentally, but as it was a Sunday it closed at 6pm – which was precisely when we got to it!  I snapped some pictures from around Queenstown as we walked back to the main ‘downtown’ area.


Ultimately, we ended up back at the Novotel, after walking along the main roads, and getting an idea what food options were on offer.  Once back in the room, we had two nappies to change, and a bit of rest to give in to.  Somewhat refreshed, but still quite tired, we decided to go out to eat dinner.

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The city was beautiful in the twilight, as the sun danced across the mountains and the weather had fully cleared.  We ended up at a Mexican restaurant (“Coyote Grill”) which we’d seen on our walk back from the gondola.  We had a very nice meal, although Jake was restless and behaved a bit, being restless.

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After a bottle of lime Jarritos and eating a ‘surf and turf’ (spiced prawns and seasoned steak) with a side of guacamole, salsa, beans and rice I was full and very satisfied.  A very nice meal, and a great way to end the evening.  We walked back via the waterfront (yet again) to take in the city in full twilight swing.  Being the last day of a weekend, there were plenty of people about, especially young folks ready to kick off their night.


In the morning we were in for yet more transiting, north, to the lakeside town of Wanaka.

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