Sunday, December 6, 2015

6 Dec 15 – Day 7 (Wanaka, Arrowtown and Queenstown)

This morning we woke up real early because we had to go for the helicopter ride before we depart for the scheduled itinerary. Ate breakfast and later passed our valuables, passports and room key to Cynthia. Then she brought us, together with the member who took photos of SWT and I the day before at the Fox Glacier, and his daughter to the shop that was opposite our hotel. The same shop that SWT and I popped in the evening before, the Alpine Adventures. Along the way, we bumped into another member who was taking his morning walk and having a smoke. Cynthia was telling us that two other members pulled out in the last minute and so the member, who was taking his morning walk, decided to join in. When we got into the shop, Cynthia spoke with the guy at the counter to check if the weather was suitable for helicopter ride and also the available routes. He replied saying that the shop had sent someone out to check so we had to wait for confirmation. Meanwhile, the member who joined us last minute, quickly went back to the hotel to get his outer jacket and came back to the shop. After we got the confirmation, the guy at the counter measured our weight and took down our names and contact numbers. We would be doing the Twin Glaciers route which cost NZ$295.

After that, another guy named Thomas, brought us, together with another Caucasian, to a mini-van and drove us to another place where the helicopter was. We were given brief instructions as to how to approach the helicopter and when not to get near it. Then we were told of the sitting arrangement while getting up to the helicopter. The Caucasian and the young girl sat on the front seats beside the pilot while the rest of us were seated at the back with SWT and me in the middle, flanked by the two male members. It was difficult to take photos with a big size guy blocking most of the window so left it to SWT to take photos on her side because the other guy seated beside her was slimmer. After a few turns here and there to show us the Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier, we landed on Fox Glacier where we could see Mount Cook and Mount Tasman.

Got down with the help from the pilot and almost fell because I didn’t expect the snow to be so thick that it was up to my mid-calf and my jeans became wet again. Most of us had problem walking except for the little girl who was light and hence didn’t have the problem of sinking into the thick snow. SWT was quick to get the Caucasian to take photos for the two of us before we started to wander off. I didn’t wander too far from the helicopter because it was rather difficult to walk and was feeling a bit scared because I had these nudging feelings that one wrong step and I would fall off. Took photos of the surroundings and some photos of SWT. The slimmer member was nice and offered to take photos of me on his IPhone. SWT, being the mischievous one, started to throw snow balls and played with the little girl. We stayed on the glacier for around 10-15 minutes before getting back onto the helicopter for our return trip. This time I took more photos than before because I dare to lean over slightly to get better view.

Soon we landed and was led back to the mini-van and were taken back to the shop where we made our payments. Then Cynthia crossed the road to meet us and told us that our overnight bags and luggage had been loaded onto the coach. Boarded the coach, took our seats and Cynthia returned our belongings after she was done with headcounts. Left the hotel about 8:20am and we traveled for about two hours before getting a comfort break. After using the toilet, there were some exhibits in the place showing the culture of the Maori people. So took some time to browse through before going out to take photos of the surrounding sceneries. After we had all boarded the coach, we continued our journey for another 1+ hour before we stopped for lunch around 11:45am. The place was a family-own restaurant according to Cynthia, who has been patronizing it for a long time, and she said that the lunch crowd always kills. So she was hoping we could get there before 12 noon but unfortunately, a tour bus had arrived before us. She recommended us to try the hot honey-lemon-ginger drink and told us that we can just order the fish without the chips.

SWT was suffering from motion-sickness so she said she will skip lunch but will try the highly-recommended drink. As for me, I ordered just the fish and the hot honey-lemon-ginger drink as I had no idea how big the actual fish and chips meal would turn out to be. Made payment, collected my food and found SWT sitting alone at the end of a long table. Joined her and she was just done with her drink. So instead of sitting there to wait for me, she went outside to take photos while I ate alone. The fish was really good and so was the drink. After I had finished the meal, a thought struck and I ordered myself a single scoop boysenberry ice cream cone. Went back outside happily with my ice cream and found SWT. Showed off my ice cream to her and then she helped to take some photos of me with the ice cream. After I was done, went to take more photos of the surrounding. Shortly after, we set off again to our next destination, the Lake Wanaka. It didn’t take us long to get there and we had a brief photo stop of another 10 minutes before moving off again. We reached Lake Hawea in about 15 minutes and were given another 10 minutes to take photos before leaving again for Cromwell where we went to an orchard to get fruits.

The orchard was called Jones Fruit Stall Suncrest Orchard but we didn’t get to see the orchard but was led to the retail section instead. Cynthia recommended us to try the fresh fruit ice cream. Since I had an ice cream cone earlier, I didn’t try this round. SWT, on the other hand, bought a kiwi fruit flavor ice cream cone where I was offered a bite of it. We were allowed to sample the dried fruit stuff and nuts before purchasing and so we did. SWT ordered a box of green kiwi fruits and a box of cherries. Being in NZ, land of the kiwis, kiwi birds and kiwi fruits, there was no reason not to eat kiwi fruits. So I bought three golden kiwi fruits and SWT bought three green kiwi fruits. By right, one should try the original green kiwi fruits and not the hybrids but the green ones were really big so I opted for the golden ones instead. Browsed through the items sold and I ended up buying a pack of almond nuts because I know little big sis loves those. Soon everyone was happy with their orders and purchases, those who placed orders for fruits, we would go back to the orchard to collect them in a couple of days’ time.

Moving on, we went to Goldfields Jet for our jet-boating. I had done this before during the Jeju trip in 2010 but still I had these nervous feelings before the ride. Only brought my mobile phone and wallet along, made our payments, then we were brought to a shed to collect our lifejackets as well as long raincoats. We took a group photo before being led down to where the jet boat was. There were four rows on the jet boat, I followed SWT who took the third row and I was seated on the left end of the boat. The guy who drove the jet boat was a Canadian but I can’t recall his name now, though he was quite good looking. As soon as the boat started to move, my heart raced and when we were cued for the first spin, my heart raced even faster. However, as soon as the first spin was over, I craved for more. I was actually enjoying it even though I got wet during the process. The driver told us a few things about the river, made a few jokes, a staff was actually standing on a bridge to take photos of us during the ride. I was contemplating whether to dig out my mobile phone to take photos but it was stuffed too deep into my pocket. I could only hope that SWT took some good ones.

Soon the ride was over and we got out of the boat, climbed up the stairs, back to the shed to return the lifejackets and raincoats. Then back to the center where we freshened up ourselves before going to the counter to check out the photos taken. There were four photos altogether and because of the high costs, we didn’t buy them. One of the members bought all four and SWT borrowed the photos from him so that we could the photos of those photos using the mobile phone. Cheapskate, I know. Then we saw our jet boat driver and SWT suggested taking a photo with him. She had made a deep impression because she was the chatty one during the ride.

Back on the coach, Cynthia told us that there is a AJ Hackett Bungy Jump facility over at the Kawarau Bridge and since there was time, she got the driver to take us there to see other people jump. According to the driver, it is a baby bungy and this is where bungy jump originated. We got there about 4:15pm and there were a lot of people standing along the side rail waiting to see people do bungy jump. Fortunately for us, we didn’t have to wait very long. There was a couple preparing to do a twin jump. I tried to set my camera to recording mode, hoping to film the entire jumping process. I guessed the sun glared too much that I only found out that I didn’t manage to record it afterwards. I could only hope that SWT managed to get some good shots of it. We were soon herded off back to the coach where we continued to Arrowtown. According to Cynthia, the Arrow River in Arrowtown was featured in the LOTR films. I was guessing the scene where Arwen was carrying Frodo on her horse and using her elvish magic to summon the gush of river water towards the bunch of orcs.

Once we were there, we followed the direction given by Cynthia and saw the sign indicating a 4.2km loop walk which would take 45 minutes to 1 hour with the arrow pointing to the direction of the Arrow River. Unfortunately, we didn’t have that kind of time to spend else we would have attempted the walk. The river was really shallow without much water, maybe it was low tide or happened to have low quantity of water during this time of the year but the water was really clear. There were lots of greens around such as trees, shrubs and lupine flowers. Explored the surroundings and saw a family of three at the side of the river trying to pan some gold. Approached them to take a look and they decided to pack up and go. Took more photos, a couple of selfies and we were done. After spending the given 20 minutes along the river, we returned to the coach to continue to Queenstown where we spent the night. Queenstown lies next to the famous Lake Wakatipu, the longest lake and third largest in NZ. According to the driver, the water in the lake rises and falls and there is a Maori story behind it that links this to the heartbeat of a huge monster named Matau, who is said to be slumbering at the bottom of the lake.

During the journey, Cynthia brief us on the plans for the next two days and she told us about this popular shop that sells burgers in Queenstown. She said that for her past tours, she would offer to help get the burgers for the members as lunch on the day that they depart Queenstown. However, she was contemplating this time because during the last tour, she had an unpleasant experience. Usually she would distribute the paper bags with the menu printed as well as envelopes to the members so that they can choose what they want to order. Then members would write their orders, the total costs and the amount placed in the seal envelope. She would then collect the envelopes, go to the burger shop to make the purchases, distribute the food and then hand the envelopes with the change to the respective members. However, during her last tour, a group member asked her for the change even before eating the burger. She felt kind of insulted because the member acted as though Cynthia would cheat him of his money. So she hadn’t decided if she want to offer this service this round.

Checked into our hotel, settled down in our room and then went down to the lobby again to meet up with the rest to go for dinner. While waiting, SWT and I went to get a map of Queenstown from the reception counter. After everyone was there, we made our way into the town center. Our hotel was considered to be on slightly higher ground so we had to take some stairs to get down to the town center. Cynthia showed us the way and at the same time, highlighted some buildings and shops to us so that we would be able to use them to find our way back to the hotel. Got to the town center, she brought us to walk around to show us where some of the famous shops, such as Kathmandu, were and she told us that the sportswear from that shop is of pretty high quality, with the sales going on, it might be worth buying. That seemed to get the attention of some members. Continued on, she showed us the two shops that she recommended us for the burgers and hot chocolate. Finally, she showed us the place where we need to meet the day after tomorrow when we have to leave Queenstown.

Today’s dinner was Chinese dinner and again Cynthia seek SWT and my help again to split up to join other tables. After dinner, we walked around Queenstown on our own. The town center was not very big but there were a lot of shops, restaurants and café. We saw the Remarkable Sweet Shop that sells handmade chocolates, hard candies, gums, nougats and so on and I made a mental note of what I intend to buy the next day after the Milford Sound trip. There was also Koko Black that sells gourmet chocolates which SWT was eyeing on but found it too expensive. We also popped into a few souvenir shops to check out prices of the Manuka honey, royal jelly, hand creams and possum-merino products. Cynthia was really helpful, she actually went to this souvenir shop called DF Souvenir to get their discount coupons and distributed to us so that we will be entitled to 5% discount on our purchases. Because she told us that Queenstown is the best place to get all our souvenirs for the trip, therefore, we went to that shop and checked out the products there and made mental notes of the items we intend to buy the next day. Recalled there was a supermarket in Queenstown so we went to look for it. It was on the other end of the town, pretty small and very crowded. It was getting late and we slowly made our way back to the hotel. Before we reached the stairs, we passed by this 24-hour bakery shop and went in to get a boysenberry Danish each as tomorrow’s lunch. I also bought the L&P bottled drink which was on my must-eat list. Further down, we passed by the Anglican Church but it was closed. Got back, showered, settled down, packed for the next day and went to bed.

Thoughts: Today was a happy day, mostly. The helicopter ride to Fox Glacier was fun. As for lunch, it would have been great if I could eat the normal portion of the fish and chips instead of just the fish. But then again, it was compensated with the big boysenberry ice cream cone, so I shouldn’t be complaining. Lake Wanaka, Lake Hawea and Lake Wakatipu were really beautiful. I realized that NZ has a lot of lakes, rivers, mountains and glaciers. Lots of lovely green fields and rolling hills. Not forgetting lots of sheep too. This is the only trip that I see so much nature. Jet boating was really fun, especially when the jet boat was driven by a handsome guy. LOL. Arrow River was a bit of a disappointment or perhaps I wasn’t seeing the best part of the river at the right time. If only we were given more time, then we would have been able to do the loop walk to appreciate the views. Queenstown seems like a nice little town to chill in. With so many restaurants to choose from and facing good lake view. I wouldn’t mind staying in this town for a few days to enjoy the view and food.

No comments: