Day 24 – First Rainy Day

Mount Cook National Park New Zealand

Today we experienced our first rainy day the whole trip. It rained when we were at Tongariro National Park, but it was an overnight rain and finished by 10:00 in the morning. It rained all day today, so we didn’t do any of our hikes.

We ate brunch in one of the hotel restaurants this morning, Sir Edmund Hillary Cafe & Bar.  After spending some time planning and chilling in our room, we decided to go for a ride and check out the trail heads we would hike tomorrow.  It is still raining, but it is nice to get out of the room.

We drove to the Hooker Valley Track car Park first.  It was mostly empty except for a few camper vans.  Next we drove over to the Blue Lakes and Tasman Glacier car park. It was a longer drive across a few one-lane bridges and through the valley.  Even though it was raining, it was a scenic drive.  The car park was empty.

On the drive back to the hotel, I suggested we drive to Twizel the nearest town that has a gas stations.  It is a 65 kilometer drive and will take us almost an hour each way, but what else do we have to do on a rainy day.  It will give me the opportunity to fill up the car with gas, before we drive to Christchurch.  We also went to a nearby Four Square Supermarket and picked up some wine and snacks for our dinner tonight.

Once back at the hotel, we had snacks in the room for dinner.  We played Uno and read a chapter in the first Harry Potter book.  We have been reading it on our trip.  

Day 23 – Travel to Mount Cook

We are headed North today.  However, it sound like further travel restrictions are coming.  We may still have trouble getting home.

We ate breakfast in the hotel restaurant before checking out and loading up the car.  The three hour drive to Mount Cook was beautiful.  We arrived at The Hermitage Hotel around 3:30 and had some time to relax before going to dinner.  The view from our hotel room is spectacular.

We ate an early dinner at The Old Mountaineers Café Bar & Restaurant in Mount Cook Village.  Since it is Friday we all had the Salmon.  Shari and I had the Salmon salad and Albert had the Salmon pizza.  It was all delicious and we had a spectacular view of the mountains.

After dinner I went by the front desk and asked if we could extend our stay another day.  They were happy to accommodate us.  We went back to the room for the evening and planned our hikes for tomorrow.  We also got in a few games of Uno before bed time.

Day 22 – Queenstown

During breakfast this morning, Shari did some laundry.  Then we discussed our plans for getting home and changed our flight on American Airlines from Sunday March 29th to Tuesday March 23rd from Auckland.  Originally, we planned to drive back to Auckland stopping along the way at a few places we missed. Now we will continue our trip to Mount Cook and then drive and drop off the rental car in Christchurch as originally planned.  Now instead of flying from Christchurch to Melbourne Australia, we will fly to Auckland. Planning the trip took most of the morning.

 Albert requested we do the Skyline gondola ride to see the view above the city.  When we go there I realized they had a luge ride, too.  Unfortunately, I did not have the hardware I needed to connect my GoPro to a helmet.  Albert had some difficulty understanding how to brake on the luge, so we went down in tandem.  It was fun.

 After riding the gondola back down we walked over to Fat Badger Pizza for dinner.  After dinner we walk around wandering into shops looking for souvenirs.

Day 21 – Milford Sound

Today we are took a flight to Milford Sound and then a Boat ride on Milford Sound with Real Journeys. The flight took about 45 minutes and then we landed at Milford Sound.  We had about an hour before our boat ride through the sound, so we took our time and walked around the sound a little.  Out boat ride was at 1:30, so we arrived at the dock around 1:00.  Our pilot is our guide and escort all day, so he got us where we needed to be and waited for us to get back.

The cruise of the sound was wonderful.  The sound is so deep that the boat can get right up to the cliff wall.  A westerly wind was coming in from the Tasman Sea, so the sound was a little rough.  It also clouded up and rained a slight bit while we were cruising the sound. The cruise lasted about an hour and a half.

The video below is a bit long, but it has some beautiful scenery.

Since we had a light lunch we went out to dinner tonight.  We walked across the street from our hotel to Atlas Beer House. It was a small place, but the beer was good.  Unfortunately, there was a table nearby and the conversation was very salty with a lot of F-bombs being dropped.  It made for an unpleasant dinner.

Day 20 – Exploring Queenstown

I woke up around 5:30 and went down to the hotel restaurant around 6:00.  Yesterday, we heard that the Australian Government has started requiring all international travelers to self-quarantine for 14 days after arriving in country.  I sat in the restaurant drinking coffee and review what options we have for continuing our trip.
Around 8:00 I went up to the room and joined Shari and Albert and we all went down for breakfast in the hotel dining room.  During breakfast I shared with Shari what options we have for continuing our travels.

Since it doesn’t appear that I’m going to make it to Australia this trip, I went ahead and tried Vegemite at breakfast this morning.  The restaurant has small packages of it on the buffet.  I toasted and buttered a piece of bread and then spread the Vegemite on the buttered toast.  It wasn’t very exciting.  It doesn’t have much flavor and is mostly just salty.  It was edible, but it’s not something I thought was so great I will buy some at home.

It was almost noon before we left the hotel and walked around Queenstown.  We walked along the waterfront until we reached the Queenstown Gardens.  We walked through the gardens to the tip of the peninsula and then walk along the shore back to town.  It is a beautiful sunny and slightly cool day.  We continued to walk around Queenstown stopping in the odd shop to look for souvenirs. 

For lunch we went to a Queenstown institution, Fergburger.  It was packed when we arrived.  We waited in line about 15 minutes to order and then another 20 minutes to get our food.  The restaurant has very limited seating, so we took our burger down to the water front park and ate there. Albert and I each had a Ferg Deluxe burger and Shari had the Little Lamby burger.  We shared an order of fries.  The burger is large.  Perhaps 1/3 larger the the Burger King Whopper.  I’m probably just bias, but it was not as good as some of the burgers we have at home.

Day 19 – Franz Josef to Queenstown

Tried again this morning, unsuccessfully, to do the heli-hike on Franz Josef glacier.  Cloud cover on the glacier prevented the helicopters from flying. To sooth our disappointment, we went to Full of Beans for breakfast.

We started the drive to Queenstown.  We made two stops along the way.  We stopped at the Blue Pools and hike down to the pools.  It was a nice hike and pleasant break from the road.

Our second stop was in Wanaka New Zealand to see the famous Wanaka Tree.  The tree is just off shore in a local park.  With all I’ve heard about this tree, I thought there would be more people there.  Again, it was a nice break from the road.

We arrived in Queenstown around 5:00.  We found our way to the Crowne Plaza and checked in.  After getting settled in our room, we walked across the street to the Public Kitchen for dinner.

Day 18 – Franz Josef

I woke up this morning around 8:00 to the sounds of helicopters.  Heli-hike tours to the glacier are very popular.  Our heli-hike isn’t until 1:30.  This morning we ate a light breakfast and then drove down to the car park where we could hike to a viewing point to see the Franz Josef glacier.

Around 1:00 we started walking to Franz Josef Glacier Guides for our 1:30 heli-hike.  When we arrived we had to complete some paperwork before getting a wrist band and meeting our guide.  Our guide took us to a room where he gave a safety briefing and then to a dressing area where we were fitted for our waterproof pants, jackets and hiking boots.  We were each given a red fanny pack that contained our crampons, for walking on the ice, gloves, and a watch cap to keep our head warm.  After dressing we were each weighed.  Shari, Albert, and I were some of the last of our group to be weighted and as I prepared to step on the scale, our guide received word that our hike was cancelled.  Clouds were moving in over the glacier landing site and no more helicopters would be flying today.  Disappointed, we went back and took off all the protective clothing. Considering our travel schedule tomorrow, we felt we could do a hike early in the morning.  We rescheduled our hike for 9:30 tomorrow morning.

Since we didn’t eat much breakfast, we walked over to The Landing for lunch.  It was a gorgeous day in the valley, so we sat outside to eat lunch.  The restaurants had their heater on and I initially sat near one.  After a few minutes I was so warm I had to move.  We asked our waiter to turn the heater off and he did.  We ate lunch and watched the helicopters land bringing people down from the glacier.

The company we booked our heli-hike through also has several hot pools that we get to use as part of our tour.  After lunch we went back to the hotel and changed into our swim suits and walked back down to the hot pools.  We stayed about 45 minutes.  Initially, the hot pools felt great, but after a while the heat got to me.  We went back to the hotel and took showers and relaxed for a while.

Once again we had a dinner of wine and snacks in the room tonight.  

Day 17 – Travel Day to Franz Josef

Today we travelled from Christchurch to the Franz Josef Glacier driving through Arthur’s Pass again.  We ate breakfast at the World Famous Sheffield Pies.  Next, we stopped and hiked Castle Hill.

We continued the drive through Arthur’s Pass to the west coast of New Zealand.  We stopped for another hike at Hokitika Gorge.  Beautiful hike and a great stop to break up the trip.

We arrived in Franz Josef and checked into our hotel.  We are staying at The Terrance.  After getting settle we walked over to Snake Bite Brewery for dinner.

Day 15 & 16 Christchurch

On Thursday, had a leisurely morning in the room this morning and we ate breakfast in the room.  We had yogurt and fruit.

Thursday was laundry day.  Our hotel doesn’t have a Guest Laundry, but a sister property, The Ibis, does.  To prepare we walked over to The Ibis to assess the laundry facilities.  While we were out we roamed down towards the Bridge of Remembrance and found a row of restaurants and stores.

On Thursday we ate lunch at Chiwahwah Mexican Cantina.  The restaurant had a lot of Day of the Death themed artwork and even the menus.

On Friday, Albert wanted eggs for breakfast, so we walked over to Table at Monks for breakfast.  Albert ordered a Spanish Omelet, Shari had the Lemon Ricotta & Blueberry Waffle, and I had the Salmon Eggs Benedict.  Everything was delicious.

After breakfast we walk down to the Margaret Mahy Playground which is on the Avon River.  We took a long walk along the Avon stopping at Victoria Square and the James Cook Statue.  We continued along the river to the Robert Falcon Scott Statue.  We took a break and sat along the Avon near the Bridge of Remembrance.  After a short break we continued on towards the Canterbury Earthquake National Memorial and then we strolled through the Christchurch Botanic Gardens.

Needing a little pick-me-up after all this walking, we stopped in at Ben & Jerry’s for an ice cream and then sat outside and ate it.  After getting a little sugar in us we explored the Riverside Market before walking back to our hotel and propped our feet up for a while.

For dinner tonight we walked down to Original Sin near the Bridge of Remembrance.

Day 14 – Arthur’s Pass to Christchurch

Today we traveled from Punakaiki to Christchurch across Arthur’s Pass.  It was a long day in the car, but with beautiful scenery.

We arrived in Christchurch late in the afternoon and found our hotel, The Novotel at Cathedral Square.  From our room you can see the earthquake damaged Anglican Cathedral.  After getting settled in our room we took a walk around our hotel.  We found a restaurant for dinner, Francesca’s Italian Kitchen, and since we were early they seated us right away.  We continued walking around the area after dinner.  Albert had to have a gelato after dinner.  We stopped in at Rollickin Gelato so he could get dessert.