Monthly Archives: April 2013

There’s always one . . .

Our visitor

Our visitor

So the story starts with a mouse and ends with the most unpleasant man we have come across in the whole of New Zealand in our 7 months here.

Let me take you back to Wednesday 24th of April in Queenstown. As many of you know me and John are travelling around the whole of New Zealand for 9 weeks in a spaceship (a camper-car!). We have been staying in campsites and next stop on our trip was Queenstown where we had chosen the Shotover Top 10 holiday park. We had done lots of research comparing all the campsites in Queenstown and this seemed the best – but we were very wrong. I will tell you more! We decided on this occasion – mainly because my husband is currently working from home and needs power and a good base to work from – to treat ourselves to an ensuite cabin for a couple of days. This would be a break from the spaceship and sharing showers/sinks and would give us some space.

Next comes the ‘mouse’ incident. It was the evening of Weds 24th of April and me and John were relaxing in our cabin. John got up to make a cup of tea and suddenly asked ‘what’s that?’ – and looked over at the bin. I looked over and saw the lid of the small swing bing in our kitchen was moving. It moved again and as we both watched in horror a mouse jumped out of the bin, ran across the floor and under our fridge. As I am sure you can imagine we were both incredibly shocked to see this! Now, neither of us likes mice particularly (John especially) – who does? – so were quite freaked our by this, and decided we need ed to leave the cabin asap and go and tell the holiday park people who would sort it out. John spoke to the on-call duty manager (who we later discovered was also the owner) as it was after hours and his response was very poor –  he didn’t even apologise for the incident. He just asked us what we wanted him to do about it, and when we suggested possibly moving offered us a downgrade to a basic cabin. Obviously, this wasn’t suitable and we were not keen on staying there after what had happened. The response of this person was really disappointing – at the very least we would have expected an apology, and for him to come out in person to us to apologise and to come and look in the cabin with us or show us an alternative. Following this quite incredulous response we decided to leave the holiday park. We had to go back into the cabin (mouse and all!) and quickly pack up our belongings. We then called around to secure alternative accommodation and swiftly left.

The following morning (25th April) I received an email from the owner informing me of a $100 refund because we had left early – no mention of the mouse incident! At the very least I would have expected a phone call with a very heartfelt apology for such an incident like this and a discussion with them regarding this matter. We felt $100 insufficient compensation for what we went through and when we had spent $300 in total staying there for 3 nights – and only stayed for 1 night.

I then rang the holiday park and asked to speak to the owner – and was informed by the general office he wasn’t in and would be in later. I explained I had just received an email from him and wanted to speak to him, so only then did they give me his direct dial number. I called the owner directly and explained the situation and how unhappy we were to find out a mouse in our cabin. I also explained that having spent 7 months in New Zealand this was by far our worst accommodation experience and also that having extensively read reviews for the whole country on Trip Advisor we had never read any that mentioned finding a mouse in their room/cabin.

His response was awful really – he was very evasive, and said he didn’t really want to discuss it on the phone. He asked me to send an email with my concerns – when my main concern and desire was for an apology for this incident. I also explained I was an avid user of Trip Advisor and rely on it to make my accommodation selections and that following our incident I would be posting about what happened – mainly because I didn’t want want anyone else to experience what we have. He said I was entitled to my opinion but it didn’t mean they agreed with it! I asked him what justification they could have for having found a mouse in our cabin? I asked him how they could possibly ‘disagree’ with my opinion that finding a mouse is completely unacceptable. I explained that I was very disappointed in both the incident and the extremely poor way he was speaking to me and dealing with the issue. He then told me the way I was speaking to him was poor and unnecessary. At this I told him I was going to make a formal complain about it – as it certainly warranted it – and put the phone down.

We then sought external advice from local bodies in Queenstown – who shared our disgust – and who suggested we email the park directly to give them a chance to respond. We then wrote a simple and rational e-mail outlining our reasons for our complaint. The response we received to this was frankly disgusting! In this email the owner the owner the audacity to completely avoid the issue at hand and instead invent some story about me having a mouse phobia and needing to seek professional help for this – questioning my mental health in the process!! Utter utter craziness in our opinion.

I was in shock to be honest to be personally attacked by the owner of the holiday park when they were so far in the wrong!!

Anyway, we have posted to both trip advisor and rankers as don’t want others to go through this, and are pursuing our complaint with the Top 10 company.

As anyone reading this will probably know myself and John are avid travellers and have not experienced anything remotely close to this appalling incident in New Zealand (or in our lives before for that matter). We are also extensive readers of reviews on Trip Advisor and have never read about a mouse being found in accommodation, nor about such a completely and utterly unprofessional response from an accommodation’s owner.

Anyway, just thought I would share and it’s good to get it out. Myself and John feel much better about the incident now we have been able to share our experience with others and hope nothing similar happens to them – as it was a pretty stressful time. We now plan to put the whole incident behind us, and consider that despite this awful ignorant owner being the exception there are hundreds of other amazingly friendly and helpful kiwis we have met during our time over here and will instead think of those wonderful positive experiences. 🙂

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Categories: Accommodation, New Zealand, Spaceship | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Our third visit to the amazing Mount Cook

Days 15 and 16: Mount Cook, Twizel and Omarama

Mount Cook

Mount Cook

We have been very fortunate to now have visited Mount Cook a total of three times – the most recent being last weekend. It is one of our very favourite places in the whole of New Zealand and we would go back again and again if we could!

As mentioned on my last post the last time we visited Mount Cook was with my parents who were visiting over Christmas – so it holds an extra special place in our hearts.

I included this photo on the last post but am including it again here as it was the best weather we saw in our time there! This is our Spaceship on the drive up to Mount Cook alongside Lake Pukaki.

Ron (our spaceship) heading up to Mount Cook

Ron (our spaceship) heading up to Mount Cook

On the Hooker Valley walk

On the Hooker Valley walk

We spent time walking in the Mount Cook area whilst there including our favourite walk – the start of the Hooker Valley walk (to the first swing bridge), where we saw Mount Cook peeking through the clouds. This is a beautiful walk along the valley floor, with stunning views all around.

Hooker valley river

Hooker valley river

This was were we took my parents on our last evening together of their visit. We also looked out over the Mueller lake from a vantage point.

We also took a walk to the start of the Red Tarns track – heading across another swing bridge, and up lots of stairs to a good view over the village. The weather was mixed and cloudy at this point but the weather were still great.

View of Mount Cook village

View of Mount Cook village

The visitor centre was our next stop where we spent quite a while looking around all their impressive exhibits. They have loads of really interesting information about the origins of the area, and those that have attempted to/succeeded in climbing Mount Cook. They also have info on the geography of the area and a reconstruction of a hiker’s hut.

We were really impressed as there was no charge and it gave us a little break from the rain outside. We also enjoyed lunch at a lovely cafe next door – the Old Mountaineers cafe.

Visitor centre

Visitor centre

Later that day we headed over to the Hermitage Hotel – to the Sir Edmund Hillary centre. We had been there twice before but really enjoyed the times we had visited and loved walking around the Sir Edmund Hillary themed exhibits. Unfortunately this time around we came across big signs up telling us we need a ticket to enter! Very surprised at this we asked at the information desk and were told you now had to pay $20 each to enter. Wow. They said this did also include entrance to the small theatre there for the movies (which didn’t seem that popular anyway really), but there was no longer an option to enter the centre free of charge. When we were there we didn’t see a single person in the centre, which is such a shame as it is a wonderful place, but really definitely not worth $20. We feel saddened that they have put such a high price tag on something people should be able to enjoy for free. We don’t know whether the Hermitage decided this but we don’t think Sir Edmund would like it! It quite soured our trip over to the hotel which was one point quite a refuge for us in the area (particularly from the rain!) and has changed to now more of a place that extorts people.

Poo pot!

Poo pot!

One thing to lighten the mood a little is that we saw back in the visitor centre was a ‘poo pot’! Which does what it says on the tin! We thought this was funny and an awesome thing to find in the visitor centre 🙂

The next day we left Mount Cook as the heavy rain had set in and heading for Twizel. Here we enjoyed a lovely pizza at Shawtys. Next stop was Omarama, where we checked into the Top 10 here and headed off to the Omarama hot tubs. This was a great place! We hired a private hot tub outside in our own private area (see my photos) for 1 hour 30 mins for a total of $66 for 2.

Omarama hot tub

Omarama hot tub

It was raining and fairly windy but we didn’t mind once in the wonderful hot water of the hot tub. We simply loved it. Back to the holiday park where we spent the night. We didn’t think much of this place to be honest – we had a nice welcome but the facilities were quite basic. Its location was good as it was close to the hot tubs and centre of Omarama and was ok for a night stop over.

Overall, despite having the famous ‘1 day out of 3’ good weather in the Mount Cook area we loved our return and were sad to leave.

Categories: Accommodation, Activities, New Zealand, Photographs, Spaceship | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The impressive Clay Cliffs

Day 14 – Drive from Oamaru to Mount Cook (via Clay Cliffs)

Clay Cliffs

Clay Cliffs

Lake Aviemore

Lake Aviemore

We left our lovely holiday park (Waitaki Waters) quite early this morning to start our drive in our Spaceship to Mount Cook. We stopped off at the New World in Oamaru for provisions and took the drive across the 83 past Duntroon towards Omarama. We have driven this before but had forgotten what a scenic drive it is. The mountains looked great and the lakes were spectacular – especially with the autumn colours. The trees looked beautiful! We stopped at Lake Aviemore and took a few photos here.

View looking up at Clay Cliffs

View looking up at Clay Cliffs

After a quick stop at Omarama for food at the Oasis cafe we headed for Clay Cliffs next. Despite passing this way a few times before we hadn’t yet been to Clay Cliffs, and only after seeing photos of them on someone’s blog did I think it was a must-see! So we took the road off the highway, and a further left turn onto a gravel road.

Ron and Clay Cliffs

Ron and Clay Cliffs

We then passed through 2 gates and parked up on the left just before the ‘4WD from here sign’ – where the road quickly deteriorated. There was no one else around – just us! We took a short walk uphill towards the cliffs and they were spectacular! They really were an awesome sight! We climbed up and right to the end of the path right inside the cliff area. We took lots of photos here and the light looked brilliant. We loved spending time here and wandered all over exploring.

Mount Cook

Mount Cook

We finally tore ourselves away to leave and were soon back on the road. Next stop was Peter’s lookout alongside our favourite lake in the whole of NZ – Lake Pukaki. The sky was clear blue and so the lake looked amazing – such a gorgeous blue. We took some photos from this lookout point.

This is actually our third time up to Mount Cook – and I blogged about it back in October here and here, and also in December when we were lucky enough to spend time with my parents visited from the UK which I wrote about here.

Ron (our spaceship) heading up to Mount Cook

Ron (our spaceship) heading up to Mount Cook

On arrival we took a walk to the Hooker valley and I will post pics of that on a separate post about Mount Cook, but it was a wonderful end to an awesome day! 🙂

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Dunedin and the Otago Peninsula: views, penguin biscuits, railways, a beautiful city and a flat tyre!

Days 8 – 13: Dunedin and the Otago Peninsula

Otago Peninsula

Otago Peninsula

We have spent 3 days in the Dunedin area and really enjoyed our time here. After only passing through Dunedin for a brief stop last time we visited (back in October last year) we really liked it and so have been really lucky to be able to come back for a second time and stay longer.

Day 8 – Drive from Catlins to Dunedin

Brighton Beach

Brighton Beach

Today was mostly a driving day as we checked out of the lovely Newhaven Holiday park this morning. We left our spaceship at the campsite and took the short walk to the beach at Surat Bay. It was pretty cloudy and stormy weather and the beach and waves looked beautiful, as we walked round the corner to the wider expanse of sea. We then started our journey up to Dunedin.

St Kilda beach

St Kilda beach

We stopped at Owaka and the Catlins cafe (a favourite of ours) for lunch and a bit of free wifi. The weather was mostly rainy here but we didn’t mind – especially as it was a driving day. We took the drive up to Dunedin and stopped at Brighton Beach on the way – a bit different to Brighton beach in the UK! We arrived at our holiday park (more below) and settled in for the evening. We also took a walk over the sand dunes to St Kilda beach at sunset – which was gorgeous! 🙂

Day 9 – Otago Peninsula

Lovers Leap

Lovers Leap

We spent today exploring the beautiful Otago peninsula. We were awake early and set off early heading for the peninsula. There were beautiful views to the left of the road as we took Highcliff road.  The mist was still clearing and the photos looked great! We drove to the car park near Sandymount at the end of Sandymount road. The road was gravel and fairly long – and pretty bumpy! But our spaceship got us there no problem 🙂 We took the walk up to Lovers Leap and the Chasm and really enjoyed the views along the way, and also the views from the car park!

Allan's Beach

Allan’s Beach

Next stop was Allan’s Beach – again it was pretty remote and the road there was gravel, and very narrow at times (with just water to one side!) – luckily we didn’t meet anyone and soon parked up. We took the short walk over the small mound (over private land) to the beach and without really knowing what to expect were incredibly surpassed as its amazing beauty!! There was no one else around and it really was one of the most beautiful beaches we have ever seen. We took lots of photos here and just enjoyed walking around. We spent the rest of the day driving the rest of the peninsula road and stopped for a hot choc and awesome penguin biscuit at the Penguin cafe in Portobello.

Yellow-eyed penguin biscuit

Yellow-eyed penguin biscuit

Day 10 – Lanarch Castle

Lanarch Castle

Lanarch Castle

We spent today at Lanarch Castle – perhaps I should put ‘castle’ in inverted commas – as it is more a mansion or large house rather than a castle! But it is apparently called the only ‘castle’ in the Southern hemisphere! As with the railway below we thought the price tag was a little high – at $28 per person. It certainly was a nice ‘castle’ – and had a good history so we spent a good few hours wandering around. We looked around all the rooms using our little info leaflet to give us all the info we needed. We especially enjoyed climbing to the top and seeing the panoramic views around the peninsula. Again, as with the railway (see below) we were a little underwhelmed but maybe this is because we are spoilt for choice back in the UK with our castles! We also spent time exploring the various gardens that surround the castle. An enjoyable place to spend half a day, but possibly overpriced and slightly mis-sold 🙂 We then ate lunch at the amazing Ratbags and Innocent Bystanders on Dunedin’s Octagon. The pizza here is delicious and they do cool half-metre and metre pizzas. Although we could have eaten more a half-metre was enough for us! Yum!

Day 11 – Taieri Gorge Railway – Dunedin to Pukerangi

Taieri gorge railway trip

Taieri gorge railway trip

Today we awoke early again, heading into Dunedin to take the Taieri gorge railway trip. It left at 9.30am and we took the scenic train trip up through the gorge to Pukerangi. It is deemed ‘one of the world’s great train trips’ and we had heard and read awesome things about it – and maybe it had really been built up but being completely honest we were a little underwhelemed! Don’t get me wrong we really enjoyed the trip and the scenery was beautiful, but just not stunning and we weren’t blown away by it. It is a shame, but I guess we just have incredibly high standards after all the incredible things we have seen in NZ so far. It was also really expensive at $86 per person!

Views along the way

Views along the way

The last section of the trip is best and anyone thinking of doing this should sit on the right side of the train – with the train facing forwards heading out of the station. We were on the left so the view wasn’t as good but we switched over half way for the return trip. We also thought the train might have been  little older and more authentic, but apparently a steam train would be too expensive to run – though it would be cool! Good things were it was a cool train trip, with some nice scenery and a few stops along the way. If it had been half the price maybe we would have enjoyed it more! It was a unique trip in that the train did reached pretty high heights and the views down into the gorge were great.

All in all a good way to spend half a day – but in our opinion not worth the high price tag. We enjoyed a nice meal back at Ratbags after though and headed back to the holiday park late afternoon.

Day 11 – In Dunedin

The spare tyre!

The spare tyre!

We spent today relaxing in Dunedin. We really liked being here and really like the city. It is a great city – full of university students, and beautiful buildings! It is one of the few places in NZ you could easily imagine living and it being a great place to settle (if the job situation was better!). We were a bit thwarted today but a flat tyre though! On leaving the holiday park to head into Dunedin we somehow went over a nail which went straight into our tyre making it immediately flat! We pulled in right away and called AA who arrived within half an hour. They changed the tyre for us, and we had to head to a local Firestone tyre place so they could fix it. We left it with them and headed to the Otago Settlers Museum (amazing by the way) for a bit while they fixed it. We then returned and hung around for a while so they could change it back and we were back on our way. It was a shame it happened, but better today than a day we are somewhere much more remote!

Day 12 – Otago Settlers Mudeum and Drive to Oamaru via Moeraki boulders

Photos of Otago settlers

Photos of Otago settlers

This morning we spent time at a fantastic museum – the Otago Settlers Museum. This is an incredibly innovative and well-planned out museum. It has lots of interactive parts, and an amazing array of items covering a large period in history. We only spent a few hours here but could have spent more.

Immigration boat reconstruction

Immigration boat reconstruction

My favourite part was the reconstruction of being under deck on a boat that would have brought immigrants into New Zealand – it was dark and had all the noises as part of the reconstruction. The museum had loads of interesting items and it was really well laid out. Definitely recommended!

Moeraki Boulders

Moeraki Boulders

Me at Moeraki Boulders

Me at Moeraki Boulders

We then left for Oamaru, and stopped at Moeraki boulders on the way. Last time we visited it was high tide and we couldn’t see much, but this time it was low tide and we could see loads of boulders. It looked great and we took a few pictures here and enjoyed wandering around between the boulders.

We also stopped by the Oamaru Blue Penguin colony to buy a few souvenirs (we visited to see the blue penguins back in october but hadn’t bought anything from the shop). We were also able to wander round and see the houses of the blue penguins that they stay in when they come in from the sea at night. It was great! 🙂 We then drove on to Waitaki and our holiday park for the evening.

Blue penguin home

Blue penguin home

Where we spent time: Catlins – Surat Bay and Owaka, Brighton Beach, Dunedin – St Kilda beach, Otago Peninsula (Sandymount walk, Allan’s Beach, tip of peninsula, Portobello, Lanarch Castle), Dunedin city centre and Taieri Gorge railway, Moeraki boulders, Oamaru.

Where we stayed:

Dunedin Holiday Park (quite a busy and packed-in park but showers were clean and facilities were good. There are only 10 showers for women and 10 for men so you need to get in quick! Also good pic-n-mix from the onsite shop, and a short walk over the sand dunes to beautiful St Kilda beach).

Leith Valley Touring Park (a spacier and slightly greener park, also with good facilities and friendly owners – a few mins drive from Dunedin city centre).

Waitaki Holiday park (it has awesome reviews on Trip Advisor) and is pretty quiet and has really good facilities (including a nice kitchen and lounge and unisex showers) and friendly owners.

Where we are headed next:  Mount Cook – one of our favourite places.

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Categories: Accommodation, Activities, Blue Penguin, New Zealand, Photographs, Spaceship | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

An amazing return to the Catlins

Days 5-7: Catlins region of New Zealand

We were lucky enough to take our first trip to the Catlins area back in October – when we took our first holiday on arriving in New Zealand back in Sept last year. I wrote a couple of blog posts about the area – you can see them here and here. This time around we have had as an incredible – if not more incredible – time! We have been so lucky with both the weather and the wildlife we have seen (more about that later!).

Day 5: Te Anau to McLean Falls

Manapouri

Manapouri

Tuatapere

Tuatapere

I will go back to the start of Day 5 where we awoke nice and early to leave the holiday park. We headed off in our Spaceship on the Southern Scenic route – rather than the less scenic inland route – and stopped at Manapouri on the way. Again, like Te Anau we weren’t a huge fan of Manapouri last time around, but the sun shine for us this time and the lake looked beautiful. We made some stops along the way, including Tuatapere – New Zealand’s sausage capital! What a funny but cool notion! We stopped for lunch at McCracken’s rest stop with a gorgeous view overlooking the ocean.

Gemstone Beach

Gemstone Beach

Next stop was actually one of our favourite places and literally a hidden gem – Gemstone Beach! I had read about this previous on another wordpress blog and was keen to go and we are so glad we did! Firstly, the beach itself is stunning – and the waves were powerful and awesome to watch. Secondly, and its main appeal you can find little gems along the beach. It took a little bit of careful searching but we came across quite a few scattered across the sand, so collected a few small ones to take home as an amazing souvenir. We got back on the road – listening to one of our many spaceship mixes I had made prior to our trip – and were soon entering Catlins land. We arrived at our Holiday park – McLean Falls Holiday park – and checked in our Spaceship to a powered site (see more below about this park).

McLean Falls

McLean Falls

Last time we visited the Catlins area there were three main attractions we didn’t get to see – McLean Falls, Cathedral Caves and Slope Point (as all were closed for one reason or another), so our main intention this time around was to hopefully see them all. So our first stop was McLean Falls – a short gravel drive away from the holiday park down a narrow and twisty road. On arrival we took the short walk to the falls, climbed up the steps and were soon rewarded with a magnificent waterfall! It fell onto 3 main levels and was an awesome sight. We took some photos here and then headed back to the holiday park, having food at the Whistling cafe before settling in for the night. For this evening we actually plugged our portal heater in using the power to our site and fed this through our window, so we could really warm up the spaceship before we went to bed, and it helped quite a bit.

Day 6: Cathedral Caves, Florence Hill lookout, Curio Bay (and penguins!)

Cathedral Caves beach

Cathedral Caves beach

We made a really early start this morning to go to Cathedral Caves. These are notoriously quite tricky to see, as access is very limited and the gate that guards the road to the start of the walk is only open when it is safe to enter. The caves are only visible a few hours either side of low tide (which was at 8.10am this morning), so we were able to go through the gate and take the drive up to the car park. The gate can also be closed if it is dangerous to visit the caves (as it was when we visited back in october) or the sea is too rough. So we did feel quite privileged to be able to take the drive up there.

Cathedral Caves

Cathedral Caves

We parked up and headed out on the nice forest walk down to the beach. It is fairly steep down in places (which is more to note for coming back up which takes a little bit of fitness) and we met the attendant on the way up who looks after the area. We paid her the $5 each to be able to use the walk – it is on private land – and were soon down by the beach. We walked out from the trees to see the most beautiful site – the amazing expansive beach spread out in front of us. The sun not having long risen was creatiing such a wonderful light, and the sand and waves just looked heavenly. The caves were over to the left on arrival at the beach, so we headed in that direction and were soon at the caves. They were quite a sight! We went inside and had a look around. The caves are named as such as they resemble the shape of the cathedral. We took some photos from inside which looked cool, and had more of a walk around that area. It was such a great time to visit as it was pretty quiet, with just a few other people exploring too. We walked around on the sand taking in the amazing views in every direction. It was with a heavy heart we left, as it was one of the most beautiful places we have been to in New Zealand. We took the walk back up through the forest to the spaceship and were back on the road again.

Florence Hill lookout

Florence Hill lookout

We stopped at Florence Hill lookout on the way – where you can took down to Tautuku Bay which is an amazing sight and very photogenic! We camped out in the spaceship for a bit just taking in the view here. Next stopped was Owaka for a bit of internet and a picnic lunch. Then we headed back towards Curio Bay – where we went to the petrified forest. When we visited back in October we saw yellow-eyed penguins come ashore in the evening here, so just stopped by to check we could still get down to the beach (we had read a few things online saying they had cut off access due to safety reasons).

Yellow-eyed penguin walking

Yellow-eyed penguin walking

To our delight on realising we could still get down to the beach we actually noticed a yellow-eyed penguin on the beach there and then!! This was about 2pm and usually they only come ashore at dawn and dusk. We skipped down the steps and headed over to the penguin (keeping a safe distance of course) – noticing he was a baby one, with more down than usual.

Baby yellow-eyed

Baby yellow-eyed

We also spotted another adult penguin coming in from the sea. We spent time here just watching them and taking some photos. Again, we felt incredibly privileged to have seen them and just loved watching them – we could have stayed for hours! We then spent some time down on the beach at Curio Bay before turning in for the night. It really was an amazing end to a brilliant and memorable day!

Yellow-eyed penguin

Yellow-eyed penguin

Day 7: Slope Point, Tautuku Bay, Surat Bay

Hector dolphin

Hector dolphin

We fulfilled another wish of ours this morning – seeing hectors dolphins playing in the surf at Porpoise Bay – we took a few pics but they were hard to catch! Apparently they very rarely jump out of the water, but I just so happened to be in the right area on my zoom and caught them just as they were jumping back in. It was just great to see them. We again headed out early to Slope Point – keen to complete the trio of must-do things this time around.

Us at Slope Point

Us at Slope Point

The gravel road up there was a little rough in places, but we made it in one piece, parked up and – as the only people there –  headed out on the short walk over to the end of New Zealand!

Scenery at Slope Point

Scenery at Slope Point

Slope Point is the mostly southerly point of New Zealand (on the mainland) and was a great place to visit. We reached the famous signpost – and of course took the obligatory photos. Our camera timer came in handy to take a shot of both of us – the joys of being alone at the end of NZ! We spent time here just enjoying the scenery. It reminded us a little of Cornwall, and a quieter version of Lands End. We really loved it here. We took the walk back to the spaceship and planned a drive to Owaka for food.

Tautuku Bay

Tautuku Bay

On the way we made a magic stop – another place really off-the-beaten track – Tautuku Bay. Again with no one else around we took the forest walk down to the beach. On the way we were joined by an amazing little bird – we think he was a fantail – who was the friendliest wild bird we have ever come across! He was very nosy and kept very close to us! He must have liked us 🙂 He followed us the rest of the way to the beach – chirping and flying all around. I managed to capture one shot of him where he stayed still for a second, and have pasted it below. On arriving at the beach, we were pretty awe-struck! The beach was beautiful and completely deserted. We had seen the beach the previous day from the lookout but it was great being down on the beach with complete freedom. It was wonderful, and felt like our own secret private beach.

New Zealand fantail

New Zealand fantail

Next stop was Owaka for food in the lovely Catlins cafe. Despite it being after 11am they still cooked me up some pancakes (being a fussy eater there wasn’t much for me on the menu!) which were delicious. Then we took the short drive down to Surat Bay and our home for the night at Newhaven Holiday park. We are off towards Dunedin and the Otago Peninsula tomorrow and are looking forward to exploring more in the area!

Where we spent time: Southern Scenic Highway, Manapouri, Catlins – McLean Falls, Cathedral Caves, Curio Bay, Surat Bay.

Where we stayed in our Spaceship:  McLean Falls Holiday Park – the main appeal of this place is its location – right next to McLean Falls and a few hundred metres to the entrance to Cathedral Caves. It also has a cafe on site which is handy. The pitches here weren’t too close together and it was pretty quiet. The bathrooms had three showers and were clean, but a little cold! Overall we would stay here again because it is in an ideal location. NewHaven Holiday Park – our favourite place we have stayed yet! This is a really lovely thoughtful family-run holiday park. It was very quiet when we visited. With only two showers (one for men and one for women) it may get a little busy in peak season, but it was perfect for us. The giant chess board was also a magic touch! There is a short walk from the holiday park along to Surat Bay.

Where we are headed next: Dunedin and the Otago Peninsula. I have included two slideshows below which include my photos Catlins wildlife slideshow:

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General photos slideshow:

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Categories: Accommodation, New Zealand, Photographs, Spaceship | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The appeal of Te Anau

Sunset at Te Anau

Sunset at Te Anau

Fun in Te Anau!

Fun in Te Anau!

We spent a few days in Te Anau recently and really enjoyed our time there. It wasn’t one of our favourite places last time around, but this time we actually really loved spending time there – including a magical trip to Milford Sound I have already written about. I have posted below in my gallery a few pics of Te Anau – but they don’t really do it justice – it is such a beautiful lake. I wrote about visiting Lake Mistletoe on my last blog post, so there are a few photos of that. We also spent time in the evening in Te Anau watching the sunset, and having fun with a funny fish photo thing – see pics! We also enjoyed a lovely pizza at Ristorante Pizzeria Da’ Toni – where the service was lovely and friendly and the food was delicious. We also did a bit of shopping in a great shop called Kiwi Country – where I bought a really nice pure wool jumper (on behalf of my parents as a gift for a my 30th birthday which is in a few weeks!). We had a lovely chat with a woman there who was interested in our travels and had also been to the UK 6 times!

Te Anau is usually just seen as the departure point for trips to the sound – and of course it is that – but it is also a lot more. Taking a walk along the lake, or even spending a few days relaxing and taking in its beauty and quaint appeal are really worth it.

Next stop Catlins!

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Magical Milford Sound

Milford Sound

Milford Sound

Days 2, 3 and 4: Milford Sound/Te Anau

What a busy – and amazing – few days it has been! The time has flown since our first evening in our Spaceship at the very beautiful Moke Lake.

At a beautiful beach on route

At a beautiful beach on route

Day 2: Queenstown to Te Anau

We left Moke Lake in the morning – after doing a walk around part of the lake – it was very beautiful. We headed into Queenstown for lunch at PJs (another favourite of ours – who do yummy traditional British fish and chips), before setting off for Te Anau. With a few stops along the way including at Garston – NZ’s most inland village – we arrived in Te Anau early evening. We checked into our holiday park (for more details see below) and spent a nice evening here planning the days ahead.

On the road to Milford Sound

On the road to Milford Sound

Day 3: Milford Sound

We awoke very early (after having an extra hour in bed due to the clocks going back), got ready using the excellent facilities, and set off on the road to Milford Sound in our wonderful Spaceship, Mysteron. I made a quick call to a lovely woman at Mitre Peak Cruises to check there were still spaces on the cruise we had planned to take with them (the 1.35pm) and she informed me there was. Our decision to go to Milford Sound today was partly due to the fact the weather was good and the forecast was also for continued good weather. Last time we had visited Milford Sound – back in 2006 – it was raining heavily with low visibly, and although we really enjoyed the trip we always said we would like to return in better weather. We also previously took that trip to Doubtful Sound (see my old blogpost from Oct for more info) in crazy rain and bad weather, so vowed if we ever did either sound again it would be in better weather. And we were so lucky as the weather was mostly clear blue skies and lots of sun – it was perfect!

Mirror Lakes

Mirror Lakes

The drive down to Milford Sound is just amazing – it really is one of the best drives in the whole of New Zealand! You can drive it in between 2 and 2 and a half hours, but we took nearly 4 hours as there are so many great stops along the way. We visited Mirror Lakes to take some great photos of the reflections of the mountains in the lake and were very lucky the water was so calm. We also stopped at Lake Gunn to do the pretty nature walk there – and took some more photos.

Lake Gunn

Lake Gunn

We stopped at various places by the side of the road to take in the surrounding beauty, and to take yet more photos! I have taken a few with the spaceship in too – as it is pretty photogenic! The road is quite challenging and many opt to take one of the many coach tours, but we are very independent travellers and loved doing the drive ourselves. It is really a big part of the trip there for us – the scenery along the way is stunning. We headed through the Homer Tunnel – which was fun – and then down the windy zig zag road that takes you down to Milford Sound. We could have spent another few hours on the drive down (easily) but were happy with the stops we took.

Waiting for our boat trip

Waiting for our boat trip

On arriving at Milford Sound we parked up and ate a quick lunch at the Blue Duck cafe before heading off to the ferry terminal. We took some great photos on the walk up there. We paid for and picked up our boarding passes for the cruise. We decided on taking a cruise with Mitre Peak Cruise – as in our opinion they are the best people to take a cruise with on Milford. The price was $80 per person and the cruise lasted 2 hours.

Out on Milford Sound

Out on Milford Sound

They are the same company we took our trip with back in 2006 and it was just as good – if not better – especially because the weather was so much clearer! The main reason for taking a trip with them is the smaller boats – we were on a boat with capacity of 75 but only had just over 30 people so we had loads of space to move around. We just really like the smaller boat trip experience and felt like we had more space to ourselves and could get closer to different parts of the sound. We experienced the ‘big boat’ of Real Journeys on Doubtful and just really prefer the smaller boat experience. We had a wonderful 2 hours out on the sound – with the bright sun shining down and the incredible scenery all around.

Cheeky kea!

Cheeky kea!

After a really wonderful day we then took the drive back up to Te Anau. On the way back we stopped at ‘The Chasm’ where we took a short walk to see an impressive waterfall flowing underneath a bridge. We were also very excited to see a couple of kea in the car park – they especially liked climbing on the cars and took a real liking to ‘Mysteron’ – our Spaceship! I took a few pics of them standing on our spaceship. It was great to see them and they really are quite ‘cheeky’!

Kea meet Mysteron!

Kea meet Mysteron!

We had considered stopping at one of the DOC sites on the way, but after stopping at the toilets partway up the Milford road and being attacked by sandflies (despite using loads of repellant) we thought it would be better to go all the way back. We checked back in at the holiday park and fell asleep pretty early after a tiring day!

Day 4: Te Anau/Lake Mistletoe

We spent a relaxing day today – as my husband is still working for the next 3 weeks – he could catch up on some work. We also had a nice wander around Te Anau and took a drive up to Lake Mistletoe for a nice walk.

Tomorrow we are headed back to the Catlins region that we visited back in October last year and absolutely loved it – so can’t wait to do some more exploring there.

Where we stayed: Te Anau Lake View Holiday park – cost for a powered site is $38 and cabins start from $60. This is a great holiday park – very close to Te Anau town centre, with excellent facilities – including free unlimited hot and high pressured (and very clean) showers! We would definitely recommend staying here.

Where we spent time: Queenstown, Milford Sound, the Milford road, Te Anau

Where we are headed next: Catlins region

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Categories: Accommodation, Activities, New Zealand, Photographs, Spaceship | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Moke Lake – what a start to our Spaceship adventure!

Day 1 – Moke Lake

IMG_1035

We have arrived in space! Yesterday we flew down from Auckland to Queenstown, jumped on the super shuttle and were dropped off at the Spaceship depot (courtesy of a free transfer from Spaceships) at Qbox in Queenstown. On arrival the two women that greeted us were incredibly friendly and helpful. They dealt with us quickly and efficiently and were really welcoming. We sorted out all the paperwork and Jo showed us around the spaceship – we had hired a Beta 2 Berth model and it looked awesome! I have never camped before so asked lots of questions and she answered everything well. We were really impressed with the service we received on pickup and it made the perfect start to our spaceship adventure.

IMG_1056Soon we were on our way, and we headed for our favourite spot beside Lake Wakatipu in Queenstown – on Park street. We also rented a holiday house right at this spot over Christmas with my family so it has extra special meaning. We then headed into Queenstown for a lovely meal at Winnies (as always!) before doing a few bits of shopping both in Queenstown and at New World to get a few bits of food. We then drove up from Queenstown to Moke Lake. The road up from the road to Glenorchy is mostly gravel (for about 5 or 6 kilometres) and is narrow and windy, but soon brought us to the most stunning location – Moke Lake. We parked up at the DOC campsite in a good spot. We spent time just relaxing and taking in the beauty and serenity. We also had a lovely picnic tea right by the lake in the one of the most beautiful spots we have been to.

IMG_1145We had fun setting up the bed in the spaceship – it certainly is compact! But they have thought about it well, and the bed is a good size (even without using the outside option) and you can fit no problem. It was rather chilly for us – as the temperature dropped quickly outside. We had purchased two sleeping bags earlier in the day which we made good use of, along with the duvet they had supplied. When we woke up the temperature inside the spaceship was 0.2 degrees celcius! When we checked the outside temp it was -2! A frost covered the ground and the spaceships was pretty icey (but we soon warmed it up by running the engine). We then set off for a walk round part of the lake as we watched the mist rolling across the lake and mountains. It has been an eventful but wonderful first day and night with lots more adventures to come.

Where we stayed in our Spaceship: Moke Lake DOC Camp ground (cost $6 per adult). There are long drop toilets (which were kept very clean and tidy) and stream water available from 2 sinks. The camp is in an amazing location and very well kept.

Where we spent time: Queenstown and Moke Lake

Where we are going next: Te Anau.

Categories: Accommodation, New Zealand, Spaceship | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Lift off for our spaceship adventure is tomorrow!

Spaceship

We have now left Waiheke island, and are staying over in Auckland for one night, before our flight down to Queenstown tomorrow. I previously wrote about our upcoming Spaceship adventure so take a look at my blog post here.

So, we pick up our spaceship from Queenstown tomorrow and will be taking a 9 week trip in a little camper-car as we are calling it! They seem like a great design, and have a look at their website for more information.

After having been in New Zealand for just over 6 months now it will be great to explore more of NZ – and go back to some of our favourite places and see some other hidden gems we haven’t yet visited. It will also serve as a research trip for my own travel consultancy company I have set up – called Blue Penguin Travel.

I haven’t really camped before and people who know me know how much I like my home comforts, but I am looking forward to going out of my comfort-zone and having a real adventure! It should be great fun travelling all around. It is also hard for me not planning every day/night, like I am used to. But again, having the freedom and flexibility will be amazing and having complete control over where we go and what we do. We can’t wait to start this new and exciting adventure, and lift off is at about 11am tomorrow when our plane touches down in Queenstown!

We hope to enjoy our time and make the most of every second, so will only post blog entries as and when I have time rather than every day/every few days. I don’t want to spend too much time at the computer when I can be out enjoying NZ!

I will post updates when I can but otherwise see you in 9 weeks! 🙂

Categories: Blue Penguin, New Zealand, Spaceship | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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