The last stop on our NZ tour was Mount Cook Village, a cluster of accommodation in the centre of the country at the foot of Mount Cook the highest mountain in NZ. The drive from Dunedin was wet with lots of low cloud, it didn’t bode well for a good view of the mountain but we pressed on. About one hour north of Dunedin we stopped briefly at Moeraki Beach and walked along the shore to see the strange round boulders at the waters edge. The Moeraki Boulders are about 1m across and were formed over millions of years in the same way as pearls with a shell or pebble in the centre gradually being enclosed in layers of crystals, very odd! There were a couple split open on the beach so we could see the insides. Continue reading Mount Cook Village and one night in Christchurch…
Next stop was Queenstown, backpacker central and spiritual home of bungee jumping and white water rafting. We arrived in early afternoon after a wet drive from Te Anau, it was too early to check-in at the hotel so, as usual, we parked the car and went to explore Queenstown; first impressions weren’t good, Mark said it felt like Newquay with mountains! There were lots of bars and restaurants and endless shops vying to sign up tourist for a whole range of adrenelin charged activities. We dropped in to what appeared to be the tourist information office and asked a young man what he would recommend we do with our time, the least ‘exciting’ thing he could suggest was a jet boat ride on the lake so we gave up and left, turns out it wasn’t the official tourist office, when we found that it had a few more appealing options but nothing that really grabbed us. Feeling a bit down hearted we headed for the Rees Hotel which was about 2km outside of town. No B&B for us here, the Rees is a 5* hotel, and very nice it was too. We had a good-sized room with a view across the lake to the Remarkable Mountains (another good name!). The restaurant at the hotel was quite grand and we weren’t in the mood or the market for nouvelle cuisine so when the weather improved and the sun came out we decided to walk along the lakeside footpath back into town (the hotel ran an hourly shuttle to and from the town centre so we knew we could get a lift back). We wandered around town and eventually settled on a Vietnamese restaurant down by the wharf, we hadn’t had Vietnamese food before but it was very nice, Mark ordered lemongrass chicken and I ordered Chinese five spice beef, we shared the dishes and a bowl of steamed rice and finished up with a banana fritter with ice-cream. I’m not sure if that is an authentic Vietnamese meal but we enjoyed it! Continue reading Queenstown
We left Wellington on Thursday morning taking a taxi to the ferry terminal to catch the 09.00 ferry across the Cook Straight to the South Island. We were leaving the buzz of the capital city for the costal wilderness of the Marlborough Sound, an area of bays and inlets, islands and headlands, mountains and forest. After two days of winds gusting 40-50 mph and facing a three-and-a-half-hour journey across one of the most unpredictable stretches of water in the world I can’t tell you how much we were hoping that the forecast of calm weather would come good. Sure enough Thursday morning dawned calm and sunny, we put on our trusty wristbands just to be on the safe side and boarded the Interislander Ferry. Continue reading Marlborough Sound
We landed in Auckland late on Saturday afternoon, the temperature was about 16 degrees and we felt rather under dressed having left Fiji in shorts and t-shirts; we had to decide between being over-dressed leaving Matamanoa and under-dressed arriving in NZ and went for the second option. No problem though, there was a driver waiting for us complete with all the paper work for our time in NZ, hotel bookings, car hire details, road atlas and guide book. A 30-minute drive took us to the Sebel Hotel on Viaduct Harbour, a new marina built to support the Americas cup race. We checked in, cheered when we found a washing machine and tumble dryer in our suite, changed into long trousers and headed out to explore. Continue reading Auckland
Our first stop in Fiji was at the Westin Hotel on Denarau Island just outside Fiji’s second biggest town Nadi on the west coast. The capital is Suva, about 3 hours away. Denarau Island was created by draining swamp land to create a focus for the growing tourist industry, there is a golf course in the middle and around the outside they have built two Sheratons, a Hilton, a Sofitel and the Westin (there maybe others but those are the ones we saw). There is also a Marina, Port Denarau, where all the fishing and diving trips and day cruises go from. It is all very upmarket and glossy but apart from the lovely Fijian people who work there it is all a bit generic and sterile. The most bizarre thing about the Denarau Island holiday paradise is, there is no beach!! Our room was very comfortable, the pool was nice and there were two restaurants and a café. The one outstanding feature of the hotel was the breakfast buffet!! It had everything you could think of including a juice bar where you could blend your own juices from bowls of fruit, veg herbs and spices. It even had complimentary sparkling wine (Blanc de Blanc) every morning just in case you needed to pep up the orange juice. Continue reading Fiji, part 1 (and part 2)
For our stay in Maui we were booked in to the Inn at Mama’s Fish House; a group of holiday cottages clustered around a famous fish restaurant. When we checked in we were upgraded to a two-bedroom garden cottage, it was beautiful, really spacious, tastefully furnished and recently fully refurbished at great expense. We discovered a welcome tray in the kitchen with the usual tea and coffee but also a loaf of homemade banana cake, a huge fresh papaya and a fresh lime – that was breakfast sorted for one morning. Having had an early start we didn’t stray far that afternoon, but we did walk through the restaurant to see the beach. The setting was idyllic, a beautiful tropical garden opened on to a grove of palm trees and a virtually private beach, technically all the beaches in Hawaii are open to the public but this was as private as could be. The beach was steep and there was a reef off shore which protected it from the surf, in between was an area of rock pools. Not really a swimming beach but great to sit and gaze at.
Well, we can’t tell you very much about Kauai, the bug we picked up in Alaska and the journey to Hawaii left us pretty exhausted, add in the sudden change of temperature and we were good for nothing for a couple of days. That said the Outrigger Kiahuna Plantation Hotel was a pretty good place to convalesce! We stayed in our room quite a bit but when we did feel up to going outside the gardens were beautiful and as for the beach, well the photo’s speak for themselves.