New Zealand – Skiing, wine and not very many penguins

Oh the joy of finishing an exam, jumping on a plane and going on holiday!

We flew into Queenstown expecting beautiful scenery, some snow on the mountains and a few days of skiing up a storm. And we definitely got a storm. A blizzard in fact. Turns out we were the last plane into (and out of) Queenstown for days.

We decided to take the Gondola up to the top of Bob’s Peak and see Queenstown from the top. The view was simply amazing! We also took up the offer of a luge ride or three while we were up there.

View from the top
Luge-ing on Bob’s Peak

Then, stepping into the world of Maori culture, we journeyed through mythical legends and experienced the fearsome haka and the stunning poi display. Plus, we got to partake in the fun!

Michael in the Wero, introducing us as friend not foe

Michael dancing the Haka

Stepping outside, we realised that the blizzard had started and that Queenstown was now under snow. The view from the top had taken a strangely eerie and snow filled form.

And the view in the town was even better! There was snow everywhere – it was sensational!

So, the next morning we headed out to the slopes, but the ski slope we were going to (Cardrona) was closed. So, we ended up at Coronet Peak, skiing through intermittent snowstorms. But the snow was so soft and there was so much of it. Fantastic for an absolute beginner like me.

Our final day in Queenstown arrived and so did the hour of the skydiving package that Michael had booked. As you can probably imagine, I was praying for some kind of weather interruption and somehow my prayers were answered. Instead, we went jet boating and it was a much better option (in my mind anyway).

We left Queenstown after the Jetboating and drove through the very newly opened Lindis Pass. I have never seen so much snow.

Arriving in Oamaru, we headed to our hotel and what a choice Michael had made. The hotel was situated in the Oamaru Historic Precinct and was built in 1877. It operated as a licensed hotel until prohibition came to Oamaru in 1905. Without a liquor licence it continued in use as a private hotel until 1943 when it was bought and used for storage of light engineering foundry equipment. It was bought by the Oamaru Whitestone Civic Trust in 1989 and was fully restored in 1998/99. The current owner is a penny farthing rider who knew so much about New Zealand and we chatted all night as his only guests. He was, however, awaiting a film crew and associated actors to film a to-be-well-recognised film but the rain and the blizzard had prevented them from arriving.

We spent the night watching a small amount of little blue penguins swim/crash ashore before eating a lovely meal in a local restaurant and enjoying a few mulled wines in the hotel bar.

The next day we started our long drive to Picton on the top of the North Island. Upon arrival, we realised that while it was a beautiful sleepy little coastal town, it was not the hub we thought it would be. A slight mishap with the rental car (the drop was slightly bigger than expected but it was dark), a quick bite to eat and some card games later, we were glad to hit the bed.

Waking up to a glorious summer day, we excitedly left for our day tour of the Malborough region with our tour guide Andy. Turns out that the morning group was us and three Koreans who giggled their way through a couple too many wines. We were joined in the afternoon by another two couples and had an enjoyable tour through the sweet reislings, gertruzaminers and local beers of the most famous wine region in New Zealand. Pizza and beer at Andy’s house with his wonderful wife and beautiful bubs topped off a wonderful day.

Our second last day arrived, and we decided to make the most of the morning with a boat trip in the Queen Charlotte Sound (have I mentioned how much I like boats?).

We cruised up through to the historic Ship Cove, via a few drop offs and pickups (mostly mail and supplies rather than people). Ship Cove is recognised as Captain James Cook’s favourite New Zealand base. He spent 170 days here between January 1770 and February 1777. It was during these visits that some of the earliest sustained contact between Maori and European travellers took place. Maori were quick to trade for European goods while Cook’s people observed and engaged in Maori cultural life.

Hopping off the boat, we observed Captain Cook’s memorial and the Maori statues.

Back on board we make our way into the Endeavour Inlet to pick up and drop off guests at the resorts.

We toured past a seal colony and some fish farms…

But the highlight of the trip was the pod of dolphins who came to say hello.

After finishing the tour, we took the Blueridge across Cook Strait to Wellington, our final destination.

That evening, we headed up the Cable Car to the top of the city and visited the Carter Observatory, the national observatory from 1977 to 2010. We attended a 45 minute presentation that explained the New Zealand Night Sky in Maori tradition before getting our own chance to look up at the sky.

Heading back down the hill, we had a beautiful dinner and felt rather like we were back in Melbourne.

Waking up on our final day of the trip, we visited the national museum and found ourselves immersed in all things Kiwi. Rushing back to the hotel and then to the airport, we took an afternoon flight back to Melbourne. Another country visited, what next I say?