Friday, October 31, 2008

My Kiwi Experience!: Lake Tekapo

Finally, the last leg of our journey. The actual time we spent at Tekapo was short as basically, there was just one thing to see - the lake. Oh, and ok, if you count the church, two things. This church has got to be one of the most photographed churches in the world...

The mountains.. the lake.. I wouldn't blame you if you thought it was the sea instead. Unfortunately for us, it was very cold and super windy the day we were there. The wind was strong enough to prevent me from opening the car door! Gah!

The trip ended on a very interesting note. While we could have reached Christchurch in three hours, we took double the time instead due to some navigational mistakes. Haha, we were headed the wrong direction! Gosh, I've never driven such a long distance for such a long time in my entire life! Amazing how I still managed to stay awake after that.

A very big thank you to Pet! I really enjoyed myself heaps during this trip. I loved the scenery and of course, your company.

My Kiwi Experience!: Mount Cook

As our German friends made their way to Queenstown, we made ours the opposite direction. We were lucky to have clear blue skies. The drive was a long one but it was made interesting by views of the following:

The endless plains of white.... ahh.... and I'd have to agree with Pet that from the plane, the sheep would look like fleas. Hahaha.... And then, we saw her.... the infamous Mount Cook!:

We had a quick bite at one of the hotels before heading off to do our selected walk. Gosh, if anyone who is reading this is planning to head there, please bring your own food. The price of food there is just ridiculous. But, I totally recommend the view from the hotel's cafe balcony. And, this is why:

Love the clouds! To me, they looked like they were flowing towards the peak. Wah, sungguh menakjubkan! Ok, so after filling our tummies, we went for our walk. We spent some time looking for the place, actually. It was quite funny to think that we actually got 'lost' in such a small place.

Highlight of the Hooker Valley Walk would have to be the partially frozen lake. We made it a point to reach the second bridge and from there, we headed back as we had to reach Lake Tekapo by nightfall. Haha, ok, if getting lost was funny, this has got to be funnier: us SWEATING up there. It's Mount Cook leh, my gosh! Us, sweating there!!! Bwahahahaha!!!!! Just before we reached the parking lot, Pet stumbled upon a furry friend:

After having enough of the mountain, we headed back down. Along the way, we heard some funny honking sounds. We looked at each other wondering what it could be. Hm, we didn't know that sheep could honk... hahaha... then we stopped by the roadside to check it out.

Me: Er, there are black spots on the water. Don't think they are just tree stumps leh.
Pet: Ok, Shij, I don't think tree stumps can fly.....
Me: Wah... they are geese!!!

So yes, we found out what the honking was. Curiosity satisfied, we scurried off again, not knowing that we would be making various stops along the way. Well, if you see the pictures of Lake Pukaki, you'd understand:

We arrived Lake Tekapo in time for dinner. Having secured our beds for the night at BBH Tailor-Made-Tekapo, we tucked into a hearty dinner at Reflections. We noticed the many awards they had on a wall and thought their venison would be good. Pet had Peppered Venison for main and a Sticky Date Pudding for dessert. I, on the other hand, had Salmon with mashed peas for main and a slice of tiramisu cake for dessert. Two thumbs up for the food!

Monday, October 27, 2008

My Kiwi Experience!: Wanaka

It wasn't part of our itinerary to go skiing or snowboarding but somehow, we made an impromptu decision to join Philipp and Pardis. I was like, yeah, why not (so unlike me). At the foot of the mountain, we picked up yet another hitch-hiker. This time, this fellow is a Brit from Bristol. When I found out where he came from, the following conversation took place:

Me: Oh, my cousin's in Bristol! He's studying there now.
Hiker: Wow, ok. So where do you girls come from?
Pet & Me: Malaysia.
Hiker: Seriously? My sister lives in KL! I've been to KL. Don't like it there. The town planner must have been drunk when he was planning the city. It's horrible!
Pet & Me: Agreed..
Hiker: Oh, but I love the outskirts! I went to the National Park, erm, Taman Negara. Had a great time there. Was actually lost while trekking in the jungle. So my mates and I left our bags in the jungle and moved towards the sound of the river. When we found the river, we swam not knowing whether we were heading in the right direction. But we were! We found our camp and the next morning, went back into the jungle to collect our things. They were right where we left them.

Imagine that.

So we had two Malaysians, two Germans and a Brit sharing a small car going up to the snow. This was just as scary as the climb up to the glacier. It was not only slippery, it was steep. The road was narrow and there were no barriers. So, one wrong move you could end up flying off the edge of the cliff. What made it worse was all I could see from where I was sitting was just a screen of blue. Yup, it was that steep and that high up that all you could see from the car was the sky. Yikes!

We stopped quite far from the resort (thanks to the Briton). Guess he couldn't wait to have some fun...

By the time we arrived the top, my motion-sickness kicked in and my tummy was playing up. I pulled out while at the counter. Yes, I'm a chicken. So while they went skiing and snowboarding, I waited at resort by talking to Dad on the phone and taking photos. Everywhere I turned, there were snowcaps:

When there's supply, there's demand. Look at the amount of cars there were (there were actually more parked further down)!

And haha, could that be another road leading to another skiing spot?

I had a total of two hot chocolates and one chai latte. I went to the loo twice. By the end of the day, I didn't feel cold anymore although I was surrounded by ice and snow. The sun was great. On the way back, we picked up yet another Brit. Haha... wonder what he thought of this carful of Malaysians and Germans who listen to Bob Marley music.

I don't know why I was feeling exhausted after that as I didn't do anything physical like them. But I was. I was also not in the mood of doing shopping so I opted to walk around Lake Wanaka to capture the colours before it was too late. I enjoyed myself lots doing so. Not too bad for someone who doesn't know how to use a D-SLR, eh?

The day ended with Pet and I watching a movie at...

We had the best seats in the house; a modified Volkswagen.. haha..

My Kiwi Experience!: Franz Josef

The climb up to Franz Josef Glacier made me realise that I am a VERY UNFIT young lady. The half day climb was called Fox Trot but I was definitely not trotting. I was not only petrified at how high up I was (I'm scared of heights), I was also overwhelmed by the amount of climbing we had to do. No wonder I was incredibly happy to finally feel the ice!

According to our guide, Franz Josef is one of the fastest moving glaciers in the world, moving at one meter a day. It was an interesting climb as she explained the geographical aspects of the mountain, where the original spot of the glacier was and how landslides occur. She even had small pieces of ice for us to taste!

Although it was SUPER TIRING, I am glad I chose to go for this climb. I came back to the hostel with a happy feeling and with bleeding toes (my skin came off as a result of blisters). Ouch..

We went to Matherson Lake for lunch. As usual, I had something with salmon in it. Hahahaha... yum... We didn't walk the entire perimeter of the lake as we were short of time. Halfway, or less I think, we headed back to the car. On the way out of Franz Josef, we made sure we filled up the tank as the next petrol stop would be 200km away. Also, we picked two hitch-hikers!

Philipp and Pardis are German and this backpacking trip is for before they head back to Germany to pursue their tertiary education. I learnt a little something about the education system in Germany from Philipp and found out that they only finish high school at the age of 19. Throughout the whole journey to Wanaka, Pardis was singing to the songs played on the radio. It was as if she knew all the lyrics!

We stopped many times as there were many lakes with breathtaking scenery. It was dusk so the tapestry of colours in the sky was irresistable...

We very nearly didn't manage to find a place to roost. Purple Cow was fully booked and the YHA had bunks in separate rooms. Luckily, there was a place with a family suite, which we quickly grabbed. Philipp was more hyped up knowing that Wanaka is the less commercialised version of Queenstown. First stop the next morning: Information Centre to enquire about the snow activities!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

My Kiwi Experience!: Hokitika & Fox Glacier

It was nightfall by the time we arrived at Hokitika so we were a little worried when the backpackers we hoped to live at was closed. Ah! Ok, don't panic, call the one we saw on the way in. I'm glad that we stayed at where we did because, well, look at the pictures and you be the judge...

Aren't they cute???!?!?! The owner of Birdsong (that's the name of the place) actually told us, "You'll know which beds are yours, girls". Haha... oh yes, it was obvious!

How can you not take a picture with such a cute footstool?!?! Oh, mind you, this cute thing would set you back NZD30. Alternatively, you can learn from Pet - she bought a smaller one for much less money yet the same cuteness. You can tell I went to sleep a happy girl... haha..

It was phototaking-spree time the morning after... here's the balcony of the place that welcomes all visitors. The slightly ajar windows belong to the room we spent the night in:

Here's the common kitchen (which I absolutely love):

The kitchen is connected to the living area where we have two internet kiosks, dining tables and a fireplace:

I wonder what this sheep was looking at?

And oh, I totally love the idea of incorporating a mini library with the stairs:

More surprises awaiting guests outdoors, too!

From the parking lot, follow a little stony footpath and you'd find this cosy corner:

With the owners building the place from scratch with their bare hands coupled with friendly suggestions and excellent customer service, I'd say a job superbly done!

As Hokitika is well-known for it's greenstone or jade and it's ruby rock, Pet made a point to stop at some galleries. Yes, the stones were pretty but the price was prettier. I couldn't bring myself to purchase any of them regardless of how exquisite they looked. However, I did purchase yet another paper weight from the Hokitika Glass-blowing Studio to add to my collection. If you know me well enough, you'd know that I enjoy buying blow-glass paper weights.

We made a quick stop at the Information Centre to ask about a place called Lake Cannery. We could not locate it on our map and we found out why - the lake is spelt Kaniere and pronounced slightly differently to the yellow bird's pronunciation. We had a good laugh. We had an even better laugh when we took a look at the picture I snapped of the i-Centre:

The car! Despite my good intention of capturing the insight of the government turning an old post office into an i-Centre, I couldn't help thinking that the car may get more attention!

The drive to Lake Kaniere was a long one but it was well worth it. Our reward - amazing scenery and divine serenity....

From there, we drove further up the unbeaten track to Dorothy Falls... haha... Dor, so proud leh, you have a waterfall named after you!

It was another long drive to Hokitika Gorge. I don't know what Pet was thinking but I think I was amazed at how I found the Pukeko birds amusing! We saw so many of them while driving through the fields towards the gorge:

Now this is what turquoise blue should look like!

When we have had enough of Hokitika, we continued our journey southwards. First stop, Fox. Basically, Fox is a glacial town. I mean, look at the glacier!:

Yes, all that white bit in between the brown bits is ice. Cold, hard, ice! And to think that we would be climbing and touching one the next day... shivers... We did not stop here for long as we decided to spend the night at the next glacial town.

Franz Josef, here we come to conquer you!