Day 9 - Today was another free day in Queenstown for me. Last time I was here I had booked a horseback-riding trip for today. (Hey, a girl has to find a good way to celebrate her little brother's 18th birthday even if he isn't around.) I was picked up at the hostel at 8am and we were off to Glenochary where we arrived by 9am. We were given gum boots (rubber boots), a riding helmet and assigned a horse. Mine was named Keg. We headed off to stunning views, crossed a few rivers, and took lots of pictures. I could tell that there had been a lot of Lupine growing in the area and I can only imagine how beautiful it was in bloom. The surroundings we could see from our ride were scenery for the Lord of the Rings including the
Day 8 - I think I slept for over 12 hours and it felt great! The guy I shared my room with and I lazed around until checkout and dropped our bags off early at the ferry. Then, we headed off in search of Kiwi birds. The sky was a little grey and didn't have much home considering we only had a vague idea of what they looked and sounded like. We first headed in the direction of the Ryan's Creek track, which was 6 km, and when we came to a fork in the trail we decided to keep going instead of turning around which was our original plan. The next section of the track took us on the Fern Gully track, which was 2.2 km out and back along a stream to a clearing in the bush. We returned via a road to Halfmoon bay, which was another 2 km. So despite my head cold I still got to see a bit of the island. Sadly, no kiwi birds but we did see and hear some interesting ones!
We still had some time before we needed to catch the ferry so we found our way to the information/visitor center where the sweet little old lady at reception offered to but in a DVD on kiwis for us. I certainly learned a lot but was happy to be warm and out of the wind more than anything. I had been taking medication as needed and not eating a whole lot, but it was worth it. Finally it was time to catch the ferry back (it's about 4pm at this point) and it wasn't as horrible as the ride to the island. Chase, the Stray bus driver, was waiting for us and we high tailed it back to Queenstown. I slept the whole way...
Upon arrival in Queenstown we checked into the hostel and I headed to Fergburger for some french fries. Having not eaten much I figured it was ok to eat something hot and with a lot of calories. They were perfect. I also ran into my pod mate and her brother on their journey. Queenstown was just a stop along the way to Australia for them! After my fries I found out the there was a Ferg Bakery and I tried a piece of apple pie. Gotta have some fruit to go with my potatoes. It was the last night many of the people on my original bus were going to be in Queenstown and they tried to get me to go out but I fell asleep instead. Fun things are planned for tomorrow!
Day 7 - Half-way point! Another early morning but this time it was accompanied by a sore throat. Every time I swallowed I had to brace myself for the pain. And what was the first thing I did? Hike up a mountain of course! To take us off the beaten track, Stray took us to the Roteburn track to hike to key summit. I started off at a fairly good pace but my legs got tired and my head started to throb. There were many times that I wanted to give up but when I thought about how lucky I am to have two fully functioning legs and decided that I had no excuse for quitting. However, when I got back on the bus I was exhausted and slept the rest of the way back to Te Anu. In Te Anu I found the nearest pharmacy and got day and night meds. I took the first dose and fell back asleep most of the way to Invercargill.
Invercargill is one of the most southern cities in New Zealand. They have the world's most southern McDonals, but more excitingly they have Tuatara. At a little museum we got to see Henry the Tuatara and lots of baby tuataras. Anyone who has taken WFS300 knows that a Tuatara is the closest living thing we have to a dinosaur and are the only living example of Sphenadons. Needless to say I geeked out! After a brief stop in Invercargill, we got back on the bus and headed to Bluff to see the southern most point of the south island of New Zealand as well as the anchor point of the south island. In Maori legend, Stewart Island is the anchor for the south island so there is an anchor chain (representative statue) that connects the islands. From there we went to the ferry where those of us headed to Stewart Island got off.
The ferry to Stewart Island was rough. It was like riding a roller coaster for an hour while uncontrollably shivering. I closed my eyes and braced myself in my seat almost the entire way. I fortunately did not get sea sick, but I was not a happy camper either. We finally reached Stewart Island in the dark and our luggage was the last to come off the boat. Feeling miserable (the meds were doing nothing) we found our way to the hostel where I took a shower and fell asleep by 8pm. I had completely skipped dinner.
Day 6 - By 7:00am we were off on the next part of this grand adventure. I slept the first few hours because the landscape was farmland and I was familiar enough with that. Our first stop was Te Anu for groceries but we had planned a group dinner so I just wandered around the town and did what I do best; I found a coffee shop. I had skipped breakfast so I got a piece of carrot cake and a flat white. We picked up our tickets for the Milford Sound cruise and for the ferry between Bluff and Stewart Island.
The drive to Milford Sound was scenic with amazing mountains and valleys that words cannot quite describe. This was the type of area that Lord of the Rings was filmed when there were big dramatic tree covered mountains...but they managed to film on days when there weren't clouds covering half of it. At one point we drove through a tunnel in a granite mountain. It took the workers 20 years to complete and there was only an inch of misalignment from where they had started on either side, which is pretty good considering the technology of the time they built the Homer tunnel. Honestly, the landscape was breathtaking but got a little repetitive. We finally reached Milford Sound where the landscape was altered with the presence of a large body of water. Again, gorgeous! It was sunny which made it that much more spectacular. The only wildlife we saw was a few seals and some birds. Still no magnificent dolphin sightings though. We spent about 2 hours cruising along the water. Perfect :)
We took our time driving back to our accommodation for the night at Gunn's Camp. Our beds were in cabins heated by wood stoves. Pete would have been proud of me waking up every 1.5 hours to add a log to the fire. I slept, but not well that night. I had some time to walk around and explore the area but was quickly chased inside by the sandflies. We had a group dinner of bangers, mash and vege, but I just has the mash and vege. Many of us just sat around and talked until late then time for bed!
Day 5 - I slept in but because I was tired...just tired. I lazed around in bed because I could; I hadn't really taken time to do nothing since getting on the bus. I cooked my own lunch and by cook I mean microwaved some Uncle Ben's golden rice and opened a tin of pineapple chunks. It was a satisfying lunch despite what it may seem. Since I was unsatisfied with the camping towel I had borrowed from a friend I decided to go to nearest outdoor store and look for a new one. Much to my surprise there was a three for one deal, which meant if I bought my brother one for his birthday I could get the free ones and not feel guilty! There were also stuff sacks on sale with similar deals. I was like a kid in a candy shop.
Wandering further into Queenstown I found a Starbucks and ordered a coffee I was familiar with. I decided to read papers for one of my university classes which may not seem very relaxing while on vacation, but knowing I wouldn't be in a rush to read them later was comforting. When had read as much as I could take I wandered around Queenstown taking pictures and taking in the quaintness of this city. I noticed that I was hungry on the early side so I figured it was safe to wander to Fergburger and I got a burger entitled Holier than thou. It was a tempura tofu burger with the most amazing sauces ever. I could eat that thing every day. I was silly enough to think that I would still be hungry so I had ordered onion rings too. They weren't the greasy ones I had expected but rather seemed baked and weren't bad. However, I didn't need much after the burger anyways and didn't eat anything the rest of the day.
Once I was able to move after consuming so much food, I went back to the hostel and skyped home to Bill and my mom. I did some laundry too since I had limited clothes with me and then turned in for an early night. Early morning planned for the next day!
Day 4 - Just wanted to take it slow this morning. I could have gone to Puzzle World (still not sure what it was) or gone on a hike, but I needed to let my legs continue to recover from the glacier hike. Therefore, I found a little café that looked out on Lake Wanaka. I ordered my usual flat white and this is where I read about Boston on Facebook. Between sipping my coffee and checking the news as the story developed I read an article for my environmental planning class. Later on I hopped back on the bus and we headed off to Queenstown. Along the way we stopped at Mrs. Jones fruit stand where I bought dried mangos, which will turn out to be the best purchase I made along the way. We stopped for many more photo opportunities along the way because there was a lot of lake (I think just one big one, maybe two) between Wanaka and Queenstown. Arrowtown was a detour we took on the back way into Queenstown. The fall colors were covering the mountains and we had time to walk around and enjoy them. Arrowtown was a quaint little place; I could live there too :)
Another key stop along the way to Queenstown was the Kuwaru bridge, the first commercial bungy jumping site. The area was pretty but I couldn't jump. Rather, I wouldn't jump. No thank you.
We finally arrived in Queenstown and checked into the hostel. I'm starting to get used to this kind of living. Again, I decided not to cook and went out for what I was promised would be greasy American style pizza. It lived up to my expectations and was delicious. Pizza was followed by a tour of some of the bars in Queenstown where there are 315 licensed places to serve alcohol. I think I only saw four before I called it a night. Although I had fun singing 80s songs at the top of my lungs in a cowboy themed bar or "dancing" to some of the more recent music 1am is about my limit!