My New Zealand Family Holiday: Day 6 WANAKA

By Estella

By the time we left Queenstown for Wanaka, after our Ferg Burger brunch, it was mid-afternoon. There were still enough hours of daylight left for us to make the journey safely, but not that many that we could delay our road trip for a walk along Lake Wakatipu as I had wanted upon rising that morning. However, instead of going straight up route 89, we used the little leeway we had in our day’s schedule to take the alpine scenic route, which led us to one of probably many vantage points overlooking Queenstown.

A picture of Queenstown from the scenic alpine route.

A picture of Queenstown from the scenic alpine route.

From there, we drove past snow-covered fields through to a darkened valley flanked by forbidding mountains on either side. But for a few bends, the road was fairly straight in Lord of the Rings country. Towards Cardrona, a ski field with a village of its own, I noticed that most of the trees were completely caked in white like they had been dusted with icing sugar. The only bit of green was the grass closest to the road and that was a dull yellow.

A picture of the road from Queenstown to Cardrona.

A picture of the road from Queenstown to Cardrona.

A picture of the road from Queenstown to Cardrona.

On the road from Queenstown to Cardrona.

A picture of a snow-covered hillside on the road to Cardrona, New Zealand.

A picture of a snow-covered hillside on the road to Cardrona, New Zealand.

A picture of the road from Queenstown to Cardrona.

See what I mean about the mountains? A picture of the road from Queenstown to Cardrona.

Even though it wasn’t our final destination, the sheer amount of snow around Cardrona, being the stuff of all my childhood Hans Christian Anderson fairytales, was just cause for us to stop the car and grab a couple of happy snaps.

A picture of HRH just outside Cardrona in New Zealand.

A picture of HRH just outside Cardrona in New Zealand.

A picture of me just outside Cardrona in New Zealand.

Since it’s my birthday I’m wearing my new possum fur tie and Merinomink sweater. A picture of me just outside Cardrona in New Zealand.

A couple of kilometres past Cardrona and it was as if we were in another land: there was no snow to be seen! We pulled up at The Brookvale Motel in Wanaka which His Royal Highness had paid NZD165 for us to spend the night at, shortly before six in the evening, and after a quick use of the loo, went to scope out the area surrounding the lake. By chance, we came across a secluded walking and cycling track used by the locals.

A picture of our family room at The Brookvale Motel in Wanaka, New Zealand.

A picture of our family room at The Brookvale Motel in Wanaka, New Zealand.

A picture of the view from my room at the Brookvale Motel in Wanaka, New Zealand.

A picture of the view from my room at the Brookvale Motel in Wanaka, New Zealand.

A picture of Amanda and I by Lake Wanaka in New Zealand.

A picture of Amanda and I by Lake Wanaka in New Zealand.

A picture of HRH walking along Lake Wanaka in New Zealand.

A picture of HRH walking along Lake Wanaka in New Zealand.

A picture of HRH and Amanda out by Lake Wanaka in New Zealand.

Such peace and tranquility. A picture of HRH and Amanda out by Lake Wanaka in New Zealand.

Once we had enough of our own company, we climbed back in the car and made for the town centre. There, His Royal Highness inspected the lake once again and somewhat theatrically, asked me to commune with it, since I’m a pagan and it was my birthday.

A picture of Lake Wanaka in New Zealand.

A picture of Lake Wanaka in New Zealand.

A picture of HRH and Amanda by Lake Wanaka in New Zealand.

In a contemplative mood. A picture of HRH and Amanda by Lake Wanaka in New Zealand.

I was too cold to humour him so I suggested we have dinner at the pub across the road before I eat someone.

A picture of me and Amanda outside the pub we went to for my birthday dinner in Wanaka, New Zealand.

A picture of me and Amanda outside the pub we went to for my birthday dinner in Wanaka, New Zealand.

 

“Are you sure you want to go in there?” he asked as I stood outside the door. “I feel like something local.”

“Well, this is local,” I said, noting all the Kiwis going in and coming out of the door next to me.

We went in and the waitress said we cold sit anywhere we liked up the back. Unbeknown to us, sitting on one of the elevated tables near the bar means we get no table service. His Royal Highness had to place our orders and pay for them at the bar.

A picture of me having a drink at the Wanaka Ale House in Wanaka, New Zealand.

“What a picture!” exclaimed His Royal Highness when Amanda showed it to him. A picture of me having a drink at the Wanaka Ale House in Wanaka, New Zealand.

A picture of the ribs we had for entree at the Wanaka Ale House in Wanaka, New Zealand.

A picture of the ribs we had for entree at the Wanaka Ale House in Wanaka, New Zealand.

As usual, everything came with a mountain of chips. Our entree of pork ribs left us wanting more, but my seafood chowder – the third in this journey – was highly unsatisfactory. While chowder is supposed to be creamy, this was like eating thickened cream on its own, strewn with some seafood and enough salt to push your blood pressure through the roof. His Royal Highness’ fish was fresh, but seemed to have been cooked by someone other than the person who had prepared my chowder, for it only had a sprinkling of finely chopped parsley for seasoning. All up, the bill came to NZD83, a normal sum for the food we had and our choice of eatery, although compared to other pubs we’d been to, inconsistent in quality.

A picture of HRH and his fish at the Wanaka Ale House in Wanaka, New Zealand.

A picture of HRH and his fish at the Wanaka Ale House in Wanaka, New Zealand.

A picture of my seafood chowder at the Wanaka Ale House in Wanaka, New Zealand.

Too salty and thick. A picture of my seafood chowder at the Wanaka Ale House in Wanaka, New Zealand.

 

 

 

 

My New Zealand Family Holiday: Day 4 SKIING

By Estella

After launching yesterday’s post off into cyberspace, it occurred to me that I missed reporting the single most important event: we went to a shop in town to get fitted for skis. We had a 20% off coupon for gear but that couldn’t be used in conjunction with the lessons and ski passes we wanted to purchase. The knowledgeable-looking salesgirl assured us that the package we were getting from her, which included ski-pants, skis, lessons and passes was about the same as us only getting gear from her and lessons and passes next door. We didn’t need ski jackets as His Royal Highness had his from when he used to frequent the ski fields in Victoria and Amanda and I had borrowed ours from my good friend Tania.

The total bill for just the ski-pants, lessons and lift passes came to NZD504. We spent an additional NZD50 buying ski gloves for Amanda and I, another NZD100 buying ski goggles for His Royal Highness and later, when he decided to buy a pair, NZD15 for his ski gloves. His Royal Highness owns both goggles and gloves but I forgot to bring either. My bad.

I set the alarm for 7.30am and we left our hotel an hour upon rising, after I’d queried the front desk girl at the Copthorne on how to get to The Remarkables. His Royal Highness chose The Remarkables because kids have no entry fee. I chose nothing because I knew zilch about skiing. I was just hoping not to end up in Emergency with a broken something.

The reason I highlighted the front desk girl at the Copthorne will become apparent soon enough. Thanks to her, we went 1 hour out of town, in the wrong direction and thus wasted 2 hours backtracking to the right place. I remember asking her, since the map clearly said The Remarkables,  “Are you sure this is where we should be going?”

In response, she circled for me on the map our destination. I asked her again, “But are you sure? That says Cadrona over there.”

She said she was sure. I asked her a third time. “Is the Remarkables on your right or left then?” She reiterated her earlier instructions about following Frankton Road out of town, past the turn off to Albert Town, claiming that we’ll see the Remarkables on our left. She looked vaguely irritated while talking to me as though I were some imbecile for asking again. Lesson: stupid will sabotage you if you let them. Another lesson: if you go to the Copthorne Hotel in Queenstown, avoid asking the East Asian counter girl anything. I doubt she understands English.

Due to the bungle, Amanda missed the morning half of her “ski school.” We had to write NZD40 off as the Remarkables refused to refund us for the missed morning session and wouldn’t allow Amanda to join the lesson already in progress. His Royal Highness had to mind Amanda as I took off, as graceful as an elephant on steroids, with my clunky ski gear for my morning ski lesson.

A picture of HRH and Amanda at the Remarkables in Queenstown, New Zealand.

Horsing around on the slopes. A picture of HRH and Amanda at the Remarkables in Queenstown, New Zealand.

My instructor was a lovely Brit named Michelle, born with skis attached to her. She said, “I’ll see you at the bottom,” pointing to the lowest part of the beginner’s area and when she turned around, saw me sliding all the way down on my bum. Well, she only said to see me there, she didn’t specify how.

The other students had a chuckle watching me but I joked when I caught up with them that I was starting a new trend. By the time I reached my instructor, the others were already learning to put on their skis properly. We adjusted my socks and my boots, which still felt like having my feet encased in cement as the day wore on, before attaching it to one ski, trying to move in a circle, then attaching the other ski and doing the same thing.

Once we had mastered gliding down to a slightly lower part of the field, Michelle taught us to walk crab-like up to the magic carpet. It’s called the magic carpet because all you need to do is get on and stand still for it to take you to higher ground; as opposed to trying to scramble up the slope by yourself. I took so long dragging my feet sideways up to the magic carpet that Michelle told me I could take my skis off to walk there. Meanwhile my fellow students were happily skiing down the mini slope in the beginner’s area.

By the time I reached the magic carpet, I’d since fallen over a good 4 times, once without gloves, which I do not recommend. I’d taken them off because I was sweating so much my brain was beginning to think we were sunbathing in the tropics. Michelle suggested I take my jacket off instead of going gloveless as it was evident that I sustained a cold burn from ploughing hands first into the snow.

By lunchtime, I was glad to have any excuse to go home. Instead I met His Royal Highness who passed Amanda over to me to take to toilet before the start of her kiddy lesson. As part of her package, she already had lunch. His Royal Highness had eaten with her so he gave me money to grab a bite on my own up in the canteen. He said he’d join me after Amanda had gone off to class. “Oh, and by the way, you have another class at two,” said he.

Bloody hell. I went to customer reception to double check and sure enough, I had another two-hour lesson at two in the afternoon; that left me with less than an hour to plod upstairs in my boots and all, with the almighty fear of falling over and rearranging my face, to refuel for the next session. I swear to God, whoever designed ski boots must be into bondage and torture because they hurt like nobody’s business.

I bought myself a tall cup of soup and spilt half of it on my ski pants before I’d even reached the counter. If not for the boots, I would have turned around and bought myself an extra pie but even walking was a chore so I just paid up and went to sit by a bunch of girls. Soon after, His Royal Highness joined me, helping himself to my food.

“Why are you drinking coke?” he asked.

I only have a handful of those a year. I reserve them for extra stressful occasions such as these. “I hate skiing,” I said.

“Next time we’ll get you a hot ski instructor.”

“I’m not coming back. I hate skiing.”

“It’s always bad the first time but you’ll like it once you get used to it.”

“Don’t you get it? I hate skiing. I’m not coming back.”

“You still have a class at two. Pick Amanda up from her class when she finishes at four.” And with that he left me and my soup and coke alone.

The next time I saw my husband, I was back on the field, attempting to go down the slope without resorting to my bum. “Why did you bend down?” asked Michelle when she found me at the bottom of the hill.

“I didn’t. I fell and slid all the way down.”

“You have to teach my wife to ski,” pleaded His Royal Highness with Michelle as he was led away by his own instructor to the intermediate level.

Then Amanda’s instructor came over and said, “Amanda keeps saying feet hurts.”

“I’m not a doctor,” I blurted out. Hey, I could barely sort out my own feet! What could I do about Amanda’s feet? “Bring her over here,” I said.

I took Amanda off to the side where I undid her skis and boots and after making sure she felt better, handed her back to her instructor. Probably due to her fearlessness or His Royal Highness’ more athletic genes, she fared a lot better than I and was soon back on her feet, skiing the entire length of the beginner’s area as I dragged myself to the magic carpet  once again.

A picture of Amanda at the Remarkables in Queenstown, New Zealand.

That’s my baby! A picture of Amanda at the Remarkables in Queenstown, New Zealand.

“I thought you’d gone off on another break,” said Michelle.

“No, no, I’m here,” I said. Mummy duty persists even when you are on holiday. Even when your feet are blue from being stuffed into unforgiving chunks of plastic disguised as shoes.

“Well see if you can take less than half an hour between each round.”

It’s a wonder I didn’t take more. “Next time I’ll aim for half ski, half bum.” My fellow students had progressed to another instructor but Michelle was still stuck with me because I had hardly mastered the basics after one whole day of falling over.

A few more rounds and whaddaya know? I came gliding down the hill swan-like. I was so ecstatic I was Leonardo Di Caprio in Titanic with my arms outstretched, shouting, “I’m the king of the world. I’m the king of the F*&&ing world. Woo hoo!”

From across the field, Michelle gave me a big thumbs up. Over the remainder of my lesson, she taught me to turn left and right. We worked on my braking. She offered to teach me one-on-one if I came back and asked for her by name, but even then, I knew it’d take more than a few smooth runs for me to want to do this again. I told His Royal Highness that next time he hits the snow, I’ll take a trip to a day spa instead.

A picture of HRH and me after a day at The Remarkables in New Zealand.

A picture of HRH and me after a day at The Remarkables in New Zealand.

A picture of  HRH and Amanda after skiing at The Remarkables, Queenstown, New Zealand.

We conquered the mountain! A picture of HRH and Amanda after skiing at The Remarkables, Queenstown, New Zealand.

 

 

 

 

My New Zealand Family Holiday: Day 2 CHRISTCHURCH TO QUEENSTOWN

This should actually be Day 1 and Night 2, but for the sake of simplicity, we’ll count the day  His Royal Highness, Amanda and I took off for New Zealand as Day 1 instead. So this will be Day 2.

Due to the two-hour time-difference between Brisbane, Australia, and Christchurch, New Zealand, we had difficulty falling asleep on our first night there. To send us off to beddy-bye-land, we opted, perhaps unwisely, to watch a movie based on the true story of an Irishman who brings the Italian mafia to its knees. It was compelling TV, so we hardly noticed the time when we finally nodded off. I suspect when we did it was close to 3am.

Notwithstanding the few hours of rest we had, His Royal Highness brought back the hire car at 10am the next morning and we hit the road half an hour later. ACE Car Rentals wanted to saddle him with a Subaru Impreza that had done180 000km but he told them that if he’d wanted a bomb, he’d have paid for one instead. Upon hearing this, they tried to fob him off with $10 discount on each day’s rent, but he stuck to his guns and they gave him a newer Nissan Primeria. If you’ve never driven one, it’s very similar to a Honda Civic. Thanks to cheap Japanese imports, New Zealand drivers have access to cars in makes and models unavailable in Australia.

To break the seven and a half hour drive from Christchurch to Queenstown, the three of us stopped at Rakaia’s Salmon World for lunch. His Royal Highness had pan-fried Salmon with vegetables, Amanda had a kid’s platter containing cured meats and cheese and I had the first of many bowls of seafood chowder. In fact, I had so much seafood chowder this trip, I probably should have a post entitled, “The Hunt for the Best Seafood Chowder.”

Standing in front of the big salmon statue at Salmon World in Rakaia, New Zealand

Standing in front of the big salmon statue at Salmon World in Rakaia, New Zealand.

Giant Salmon Statue at Rakaia, New Zealand.

Giant Salmon Statue at Rakaia, New Zealand.

Salmon World Cafe, Rakaia, New Zealand.

HRH and Amanda walking towards Salmon World Cafe, Rakaia, New Zealand.

Entry to Salmon World Cafe, Rakaia, New Zealand.

Entry to Salmon World Cafe, Rakaia, New Zealand.

Outdoor seating to Salmon World, Rakaia, New Zealand.

Outdoor seating to Salmon World, Rakaia, New Zealand.

HRH at Salmon World, Rakaia, New Zealand.

HRH dining on pan-fried Salmon at Salmon World, Rakaia, New Zealand.

Amanda at Salmon World, Rakaia, New Zealand.

Amanda making a face at me over her kid’s platter at Salmon World, Rakaia, New Zealand.

Me at Salmon World, Rakaia, New Zealand.

Me and my seafood chowder at Salmon World, Rakaia, New Zealand.

Our meal came to NZD58. Fed up with all the processed food we’d been consuming since our arrival in New Zealand, we visited the New World Supermarket in Ashburton on our way south, for some fresh fruit to punctuate our coming meals. There, I came across a box of bright orangey roots, which I’ve since been told by my good friend Tania, a Maori of New Zealand, are yams. Tania claims they are delicious roasted, especially with a sprinkle of sugar. Unfortunately, the only time you will find them in stores is during winter.

Yams at New World Supermarket in Ashburton, New Zealand.

Yams at New World Supermarket in Ashburton, New Zealand.

HRH picking up fruit at New World Supermarket, Ashburton, New Zealand.

HRH picking up fruit at New World Supermarket, Ashburton, New Zealand.

As we headed south, we came across our first one-lane bridge. It’s the kind of bridge where cars on both sides have to take turns in order to cross.

One-lane bridge, South Island, New Zealand.

One-lane bridge, South Island, New Zealand.

A lonely homestead along the way in South Island, New Zealand.

A lonely homestead along the way in South Island, New Zealand.

The road south, past Ashburton, New Zealand.

The road south, past Ashburton, New Zealand.

Going inland along Highway 8, South Island, New Zealand.

Going inland along Highway 8, South Island, New Zealand.

Going FURTHER inland along Highway 8, South Island, New Zealand.

Going FURTHER inland along Highway 8, South Island, New Zealand.

Shops at Lake Tekapo, New Zealand.

Shops at Lake Tekapo, New Zealand.

On our marathon journey southwards, we stopped mid-afternoon at the picturesque Lake Tekapo. There, because of the blistering cold, the three of us were forced to buy beanies and gloves.

Shivering in the cold at Lake Tekapo, New Zealand.

Shivering in the cold at Lake Tekapo, New Zealand.

Me at Lake Tekapo, New Zealand.

HRH said, “So how do you want me to take this picture?” I said, through gritted teeth, “Just take it NOW!” Freezing my buns off at Lake Tekapo in New Zealand.

Ice on the ground at Lake Tekapo, New Zealand.

Ice on the ground at Lake Tekapo, New Zealand.

HRH and Amanda at Lake Tekapo, New Zealand.

HRH and Amanda at Lake Tekapo, New Zealand.

Lake Tekapo, New Zealand.
Can you see the hand of God? This is Lake Tekapo, New Zealand.

 

A cafe in Lake Tekapo, New Zealand.

A cafe in Lake Tekapo, New Zealand.

Lake Tekapo, New Zealand.

Lake Tekapo, New Zealand.

On the road near Lake Pukaki, New Zealand.

On the road near Lake Pukaki, New Zealand.

On the road between Twizel and Cromwell, New Zealand.

On the road between Twizel and Cromwell, New Zealand.

After yet more hours on the road, we took a break at Cromwell and had dinner at a local pub there. We were now less than an hour from our final destination, Queenstown.

HRH at dinner in Cromwell, New Zealand.

HRH at dinner in Cromwell, New Zealand.

Me and Amanda at Cromwell, New Zealand.

Me and Amanda at Cromwell, New Zealand. You can see we are worn out from the journey.

My liver fry with mash, peas and gravy.

I fancied something truly Kiwi so I ordered this liver fry with mash, peas and gravy.

HRH and his ribs in Cromwell, New Zealand.

HRH and his ribs in Cromwell, New Zealand.

Most standard pub meals come with chips. We found them hearty and filling. This whole meal came to NZD45. Amanda shared with us, as per normal.

In Queenstown, we were greeted by this wonderfully warm room at the Millennium Hotel. His Royal Highness likened it to sleeping in an oven, but I absolutely loved it. Through  www.wotif.com it was NZD154 but the deal came with three full buffet breakfasts.

Our Room at the Millenium Hotel, Queenstown.

Our Room at the Millenium Hotel, Queenstown.

 

My night time snack of oysters and wine.

You can tell someone was hoping to get lucky. My night time snack of oysters and wine.

 

My New Zealand Family Holiday: Day 1 ARRIVAL IN CHRISTCHURCH

Hello everyone!

I’m back from my New Zealand family holiday. Because I thought some of you might like to visit Kiwiland with your loved ones, I made sure to take loads of happy snaps and plenty of notes. So do check in as I will be sharing stories and photos over the coming days.

First up, the flight out. His Royal Highness, Amanda I were lucky enough to score 3 Economy Class tickets flying Virgin from Brisbane, Australia, to Christchurch, New Zealand for $1090. The three of us shared the one suitcase, opting instead to hand-carry our ski-jackets so that we’d have them on hand in case we had to wear them soon after arrival.

Due to our flight’s delay, we arrived in Christchurch during the early hours of Wednesday, 4 July 2012. I had ample misgivings about wandering about in sub-zero temperatures, in a foreign country, in close to pitch black, but His Royal Highness, being a stubborn ol’ bugger, insisted we make our way to the hotel on foot so as to save on taxi fare. Fortunately, the hotel was only 700m away, so I had barely started braying like a donkey about the arctic conditions when we found ourselves at the hotel’s doorstep.

The name of our hotel “Sudima” was easy to remember because it reminded me of one of Malaysia’s most famous singers, the late Sudirman. It cost us NZD165 a night, including the NZD5 booking fee we had to pay for going through www.wotif.com As you can see from the picture below, it is a regular 3.5 star hotel. The best part about it was that it was warm, clean and close to the airport. That’s all you probably care about when you arrive past midnight anyway. His Royal Highness had a cackle at my expense when he saw me loading up on junk from the vending machine in the hallway. He said, “I’m sure there’s a mini-bar. We’ll just eat from it if need be.”

I said, “If there is a mini-bar, why is there a vending machine here?”

As I had expected, there was no mini-bar to pick from. Just the usual complimentary tea and coffee-making facilities.

 

Sudima Hotel, Christchurch, New Zealand.

Our hotel room at 3.5 star Sudima Hotel, Christchurch, New Zealand.

Amanda fast asleep in Sudima Hotel, Christchurch, New Zealand.

Morning of Day 2. Amanda fast asleep in Sudima Hotel, Christchurch, New Zealand.