Back to Christchurch :)

After a really quiet time in Wellington it was time to head south one more time and go back to spend some more time with Charlotte 🙂 Me being me, of course I didn’t take the easy option of just flying there – instead I used all other means of transport!

Starting with what was one of the first buses of the day to leave the Airbnb, it was then on to the shuttle bus for the Interislander ferry. I had checked out the stop the day before so that I would know where to go and when. Once we got to the ferry terminal, we checked in our bags and I learned that because my ferry ticket was part of my train booking I would not have to worry about my bag until we got to Christchurch that evening. Nnnnnice! 🙂

The ferry journey was rather uneventful as for once it was not windy and the sea was very calm that day. Once we got to Picton, it was very easy to find the train station – a) Picton is rather small and b) there was a yellow line on the sidewalk 😛 At the train station, it was again very easy to check in and get the train ticket for the Coastal Pacific. Unfortunately there was no chance of choosing your seat, but as it was a scenic train, it had huge windows anyway and a viewing car which was all open.

The Coastal Pacific does what the name suggests – it travels down right by the coast before heading inland to Christchurch. There are headphones and a commentary on every seat and the above-mentioned huge windows. Also, the most leg space I ever had 😀 There’s also a cafe car. The viewing car was at the front of the train, imagine a normal train car, just with the windows and walls between the windows taken out. That would be my downfall later…

From traveling the same stretch twice on the bus, I had a quite good idea of when it was worth going to the viewing car for good pictures. What I didn’t think of was that the train was going at some speed and that it would be very windy there… So I took a lot of pictures along the coast towards Kaikoura, but after that I had to stay inside because my eyes were majorly irritated. A mix of the wind and a bout of hay fever (usually that doesn’t bother me in December 😛 ) made for a rather painful experience until everything finally calmed down. (Pictures to be added to the post and flickr at a later date!)

We came into Christchurch about half an hour late, but Charlotte was sitting in the waiting area and once I had my bag, we got to the car and she drove us home. There had been some changes since I was there last: She had taken in a little dog called Tui, a Bichon-poodle mix, but Tui had somehow scared off the black cat, Monti. He seems to still come eat in the garage at night, but hasn’t been seen since 😦 Marmi in turn seems quite happy to be the only cat now 😉 Both were very much happy to be cuddled and petted as much as I would want and Tui really showed her cleverness on more than one occasion 🙂

We had some dinner and then an early night – a full day of traveling is quite tiring 😉 The next day we took little Tui for a walk in a lovely dog park, Halswell Quarry, where she could run off leash and get lots of sniffing done 🙂 Diana was also with us that day, but later decided she wasn’t going to join us the next day.

So it was just the two of us heading towards Waipara, a part of the Marlborough wine region. Charlotte took me to the Pegasus Bay Winery, first for a small wine tasting (mmh, Pinot Noir!) and then for a lovely lunch! We shared a platter with all sorts of yummy things which left us pretty full and happy 🙂 Sitting outside in the sunshine, sheltered from the wind by a hedge, it was just a perfect day!

The next day I walked into the city and back – that hadn’t been the plan, but obviously my body wanted the movement! On Saturday, Charlotte had invited two of her friends for a roast dinner and we spent a wonderful evening together. Funny fact: As the ladies are of a certain age and the country itself not very old, they would know all the family connections in the area and know who married a daughter/son of whom and so on. I had no clue, but it was fun to listen to it 🙂

Of course the food was amazing and seeing what she could do in the time, it was even more amazing. I thought we’d have fresh berries with cream for dessert – the next thing I see when I get to the kitchen is Charlotte making a “little creme brulee” 😉 For starters we had crackers with cream cheese and salmon and the main course was a leg of lamb, complete with mince jelly, new potatoes, kumara, asparagus and carrots. So good that I didn’t even take a picture 😛

The day after it was time to say goodbye again and now I am in Auckland, my last night in New Zealand. It will be Sydney and then Melbourne and next week the walkabout will be over for this year – crazy!!!

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Queenstown if you’re not a party person ;)

Queenstown – party and adventure capital of New Zealand, or so they say. So why on earth did I want to stay here for 4 nights? Because a) I didn’t want to stay in a hostel and b) I wanted a break from the bus. So I had a look around AirBnb one night and found a very cosy looking place a little out of town with a very good price. And getting accepted within 3 minutes after requesting my dates, I thought that was a very good sign.

It was, my hostess Sarah was keeping in touch and even made sure that I got picked up by their housemate Charlie in the car when I stepped off the bus. Looking at the map, I thought, ah, it’s not far, I can walk that. What I hadn’t thought about was the fact that Queenstown is very much built on hills (and steep ones!) around the centre. So it was very good to be driven up there, as I noticed the next days – even walking up there with only my camera and some money was quite a challenge 😉

My room featured a big bed (with electric blankets! the joy after Gunns Camp!) and a built-in closet, meaning I could unpack my whole backpack for the first time in quite a while 🙂 I also had my own shower which I enjoyed immensely!

Talking to Charlie for a while in the living room, I was soon fixed for my 3 days of activities 🙂 Very good to have a local to talk to who knows what’s good and worth it and if he has a mate that does winery tours, even better 😉

So Sunday I went to the Gondola to get a view from the hill in glorious sunshine and some late breakfast/lunch. Then I went for a bit of a wander around the centre and discovered Chocolates Patagonia – the best ice cream I have had since Buenos Aires! (Now I found out that the owners are in fact from Argentina…) Dulce de Leche and Dark Chocolate Macadamia – a portion that was almost to big for me, and you know I love my ice cream!!! 🙂 Sitting on the grass, enjoying my treat, I got a text from Sarah inviting me to join them for a BBQ later. And that’s what I did, meeting some of their friends, having a good time 🙂

Monday was the day to call about the wine tour and I got a space! Before that, I wanted to get a good base and went for breakfast in one of the cafes. They had pancakes on the menu, but when I ordered them, she asked if I didn’t rather want the special – chocolate chip pancakes with fried banana. Of course I did and I couldn’t finish it 😉

Charlie’s mate Lance was driving us out to Gibbston Valley and we got to taste in 4 different wineries 🙂 Gibbston Valley was our starting point (and also the starting point of wines in this valley, thanks to a stubborn Irishman), then it was Mt Rosa (I loved that because it was a little different and rough), Kinross (where they sell the wine for smaller wineries who don’t have their own cellar door) and Amisfield (again one of the bigger ones) 🙂 . The specialty in Marlborough is Sauvignon Blanc, but the best wines down here are the Pinot Noirs! Unfortunately they are hard to find back home and sending some over was also a little bit too pricey…

There’s at least one more winemaking area on my schedule and then they have Yarra Valley outside of Melbourne… 😉 I actually met a couple from Melbourne on the tour and they gave me a lot of tips for what to do there and in Sydney!

After the wine I needed some food, so it was Devil Burger – see first Queenstown post for the review 😉 Unfortunately, it didn’t make the walk uphill easier to have a big burger just before 😛

Tuesday finally I started late and went for the empanadas I had seen before. It wasn’t the same thing as in Buenos Aires, but I had a very nice one with blue cheese and walnuts 🙂 It didn’t really suffice though, so it was a pie from the Fergbakery – which, in comparison to the burger, is a real food gem!

After all the food it was time to board the TSS Earnslaw, a steam ship operating on Lake Wakatipu, in former times bringing supplies and even sheep to remote stations – nowadays shepherding tourists to a station and bringing them back 😉 It was very interesting to look at the engine room and of course it also meant that it was nicely warm inside 😉 It had snowed on the mountains over night and there was a strong wind blowing outside.

After my boat, it was another ice cream at Patagonia and a coffee, very good choice. Thankfully, they are only around Queenstown and not all over the country – otherwise you’d have to roll me home I think 😉

Back at my room I finished up my pre-bookings for the rest of the trip, finding some quite nice-looking hostels and one which has you sleep in old train carriages 🙂 My hosts were watching tv next door and I decided to join them for a bit. I will never watch The Apprentice with the same eyes again 😉