On the 29th we drove down from Moereki to Dunedin which was another beautiful drive.  Dunedin comes from Dùn Èideann, the Scottish Gaelic name for Edinburgh.

On the 30th, we drove out onto the scenic Otago Peninsular to the very end, where there is an Albatross Colony… alas again New Zealand attempts eco-tourism… which means a rather untidy mess of a visitor centre and a really shite cafe run by people that should probably of remained in whatever institution they were plucked from… think 20 minutes waiting for a coffee, and all the tables outside covered in bird-shit.. yep… that nice.  The closest we got to an albatross was the video in the little display area…. pretty poor all in all.. but the drive out there was gorgeous.

Larnach CastleOn the way back, we headed for Larnach Castle, New Zealand’s only castle, which considering the time it was built, back in the 1870s, was basically a rich mans folly. The Larnach story is an interesting one with the usual Victorian mix of marriage, lust, death and incest (well almost.. the son was only bonking the Step-Mother.. so not sure how that counts)… all good stuff :)  A really interesting house, great cafe (phew!) and stunning gardens with *awesome* views over the peninsular.  The castle also offers accommodation, and when we return to NZ.. we will definitely stay there.

Back to Dunedin for the evening, and off to “The Reef“, a surprisingly good little seafood restaurant, serving the best smoked salmon I’ve ever tasted.

On Dunedin Settlers Museum New Years Eve morning, we headed off to the Dunedin Settlers Museum, which was a rather split-personality kind of place, one half was as expected with displays of the early (mainly Scotish) settlers (including some Cowans.. woo!), a replica of the inside of one of the settler ships and various maori, chinese and other settler displays.  The other half, was a transport museum.. sort of… with displays of the old stage-coaches, trams etc.. but also they had managed to save the original art-deco/streamlined waiting room of the old bus station.. all rather odd.. but it worked.

In the afternoon, off on another train.. this time the Taireri Gorge Railway.  This line heads off from Dunedin’s stunningly over the top railway station to the arse-end of nowhere.. a former town called Pukerengi (population… 5), Dunedin Railway Stationvia a twisty route through tunnels, over bridges and wrought-iron viaducts.  The route takes about 2 hours each way, and thankfully had a buffet/bar.  The highlight, apart from the amazing views was the commentary which really deserves a post all of it’s own.  The “Little Katie on the Jigger” story will have to follow.  We are still not 100% sure if it was all a huge piss-take.. or if the guy really was being serious.

Dunedin was celebrating New Years Eve in “The Octagon” which sounds like a park.. but is really a road junction.  As the rain wasstarting as our train returned to Dunedin Station, we gave it a miss.

DunedinOn the 1st, we booked out a day early… I think it’s fair to say after 3 nights in Dunedin.. we’d done all we could :)  Off to Te Anau.. via Bluff..  More to follow.

Christchurch, South Island

We spent the 24th-27th in the city of Christchurch, in the pricey, but beautiful Hadleigh B&B.

Punting on the AvonChristchurch is a gorgeous city, often said to be the “most English” of NZ towns, and indeed it is.  Pretty much all the suburbs, streets and areas are named after British towns/people.  So on our drive into the city from SH1, we drove through Belfast, past Brighton, skimmed around Scarbourough to find Durham Road.. you get the idea.  The city has the very pretty River Avon meandering through the centre, which is is flanked by Oxford Terrace on one side and Cambridge on the other.  The river even has punting trips running… complete with men in waistcoats and straw-boaters… all very odd!

On Christmas Day most of the city was closed as expected, one thing that was open and running was the cable car that takes you to the top of Port Hill for great views over the city, and the port/harbour of Lyttleton… or it would of done.. if a great big bloody raincloud hadn’t appeared right on top of us.   Recently the ruling parties of New Zealand have tended to be rather to the left of socialist, so one rule is that if youChristchrch want people to work on public holidays (ie Xmas), you have to pay them at least time and half, and give them a day off… and you then charge an extra 15% on everything on public holidays, about 3 or 4 weeks ago the NZ National Party (Centre-Right) took over (as a minority government with a coalition with 3 others), so things appear to be changing to be slightly more friendly to businesses 😉

After the gloom of the view from the top, we descended, and headed off East.. winding our way slowly (you don’t really go anywhere fast on roads in NZ… 100KM is more of a theoretical limit on most roads), to Akaroa, where we had our picnic looking over the bay.

Boxing Day, Christchurch came back to life.. sort of.. in a rather laid back NZ style.. we saw at least ooh 20 people in Cathedral Square.  We explored the museum, to get the story of how the settlers back in 1860ish got started, wandered around the botanical gardens, and had a nice lunch in the art centre (a former private school).  We then caught a movie, The Day the Earth Stood Still.. which was as poor as expected.. it had Keanu Reeves as the saviour of the world.. say no more!  I kept waiting for him to call someone “Dude”.  In cinemas here.. you can still buy beer… which helped with this particular movie!

TranzAlpineOn the 27th, we got up at the crack of dawn (well 6ish), to catch the Tranz Scenic. TranzAlpine from Christchurch on the east coast to Greymouth on the West.  The train takes about 4ish hours each way, with an hour stop on Greymouth (which believe me is more than enough).  Really worth doing, as you just soak up the scenery all the way along, through Arthur’s Pass.  I think Brod took about 200 photos or so.. so will try and get a wodge of the up on Flickr later on.

After checking Omaruout from the Hadleigh on Sunday morning (28th), we headed south again towards our next stop of Moereki.  On route we stopped in the large town of Omaru, famous for erm.. its rather grand stone buildings, and a penguin colony.  We took yet another odd little tourist train thing to reach the penguin colony, and the promise of a restaurant and a cafe (both bloody closed).  Rather naffly some enterprising twerp has built a “environmentally friendly, eco-tourist, safety viewing centre” all the way around where the penguins sleep (at night… during the day they bugger off elsewhere).. and try and charge people some rip-off amount to go and see where a penguin may or may not be (if perchance one of the penguins decided not to head off to sea with all the others).. we gave it a miss and waited for the train to return and take us back for an ice-cream.

Onwards to our accommodation for the night in Moereki.. the very.. very odd *boutique* accommodation at “Noah’s”.  These are 4 or 5 self contained units, and a shared kitchen.  If you’ve ever been on a caravan holiday, you’d probably call the units a bit cramped.  Great views from our broom-cupboard and only $100 a night (bout erm £40 or so) though, 😉  Moereki is very small fishing port/village famous for two things, it’s boulders, and Fleur’s Place.  Moereki BouldersThe former are great big stones on the beach, the latter is a seafood restaurant ranked by Rick Stein as one of the best in the world.  Alas.. Fleur thought it was still Christmas and was therefore closed.. we went to the Moereki Tavern instead.. which is next to the Moereki Motor Camp (think campervans, caravans and tents), so you can probably guess the standard there… 😉

This morning (29th), we managed to grab breakfast at Fleurs, overlooking the bay, watching a huge stream of people put their trailer-boats into the water from the slipway.

Onwards then the Dunedin.


Seals just off SH1On the morning of the 22nd, we left our vineyard home, and headed south to the whale watching town of Kaikoura.  It was a short, easy drive down SH1, which took us about an hour and three-quarters or so.  The drive was stunning, with the views of the hills (becoming true mountains later on), weird sci-fi like salt lakes, and seal colonies along the route.

Kaikoura itself is a nice little tourist town.  Our motel was the Anchor Inn, which was right on the sea (and the road).  We arrived pretty early, around 12.30 or so, and our motellier Craig, recommended that we pop over the road, onto the beach where there was a Kaikoura Ocean Linksmall foody caravan (think dodgy Glastonbury type thing), which was serving up fresh fish.  With more than a little trepidation, and fear for our internal organs, we ventured over and ordered up what turned out to be some stunning fish.  Brod had the “Whitebait Roll”, done an apparently kiwi way, which was fried up inside an omelette, and I managed the “fush, salad + roll combo”… both were fantastic.

After lunch, we heading back into town, via the lazy route (ie by car), as the day before, I had managed to wound myself… cracking my little toe, which is still an interesting mix of black and yellow.  I’d love to say that it was doing something heroic, like fighting off the first sighting of a giant Moa in 500 years, or running from a pack of rampaging Kiwi birds.. but no.. it was instead by kicking a fireplace on the way to turn on a lamp.  Anyhow.. in town we found another great iSite, and booked up with a trip to head off whale watching on a boat the next day.

Kaikoura RangesOn the 23rd, we had a lazy morning, (to a certain degree getting over a pretty fantastic meal at the Green Dolphin the night before.. *cough*), and headed off the Whale Watching Station type place, where alas we were informed the trip was cancelled as the weather/sea was too rough.  Cue marching back to the iSite, who promptly booked us onto a Whale Watching Flight for a couple of hours later on (for a mere $5 more or so).

So… off up again in a little plane, heading out over the ocean and we found 2 sperm whales on the surface… glide around a few times, then head on back to park on the strip of lawn, rather amusingly called Kaikoura Airport.  Fantastic trip… highly recommended!  Sorry for the shite photos… whales are big… but from 1000feet with a little compact camera and a fast little plane.. focusing = not easy!

Back to Kaikoura, for another excellent dinner, this time at 45 South for a half-cray… Kaikoura in Maori means something along the lines of Meal of Crayfish… so yep.. Kaikoura catches, cooks and sells a lot of the stuff, and damn fine it was too.

Onwards then to Christchurch.

Arrival in Auckland

We landed in Auckland Airport dead on time from our trip over from Seoul.  We were pretty much first off the plane, and first through security.  I think we did from aeroplane to meeting Bart, our host in about 6 minutes.

We flew with Air Korea on their “Prestige” class, which is basically their term for business class.  Wow!  Was truly another world.  After doing long haul cattle class to the US and South Africa, this was really a joy in comparison. Fantastic, attentive, service, great food and even better wine (our quote of the holiday so far is the Purser(is that the word for the head cabin crew guy?) as he poured us a glass of champagne “Krug Sir?  The finest Champagne in the world… we’ve opened the bottle just for you.. so it’s all yours… enjoy!”).

We are staying for 3 nights at the Ascot Parnell – http://www.ascotparnell.com/ The website doesn’t really do the place justice, it’s beautiful, stylish and the views are stunning.

Today, being jet-lagged to buggery and not really knowing what planet we are on (hence writing this post at erm.. 3.45am local time) we just went for a wander in to the “village” of Parnell and grabbed lunch at Iguacu – http://www.iguacu.co.nz/ then took the touristy bus, that did a circular route around the city to try and vaguely orientate ourselves.  Crashed out at about 4pm and slept through til about 3am’ish.  I know I should of tried to stay awake till later, but I was fighting a losing battle with my eyes that were informing me that sleep was the only option!

I think the plan is that later err today (what day is it?!) we will wander down to the port and grab a ferry over the water to Devonport for more chilled out wandering around and lunching then another early night.. I am determined to try and stay up late today.. until at least 7pm!

In Auckland there seems to be a pretty decent public transport network, including a bus service called “The Link” which is big circular route, so we may use that to pop into the Auckland Museum and get a taster of the history, which as far as I can tell is the Europeans arriving, giving the Maori’s guns and letting them shoot each other, then joining in later to help with the slaughter… yay for Europeans! 😛

No photos today, doubt that either of us were looking overly photogenic, more like pale and pastey Brits looking like they’d been up for 72 hours or so.

Righty.. it’s gone 4am so that will do for now!