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Moving About The Country

New Zealand is at Covid Level One and we can now move about the country freely. With the whole Covid thing keeping foreign tourists from visiting the Kiwis are doing everything they can to encourage domestic tourism which means low prices and huge discounts on everything from airfare to accommodations. So we, along with our dear friends Lutz & Gabi of SV SuAn, decided to take advantage of this time and make a ten day trip to Queenstown on the South Island.

As usual I was put in charge of the planning so I took to the laptop to research flights, things to do and, of course, a place to stay. We found very reasonable flights out of Auckland and I located an amazing Air BnB in Queenstown. We chose a delightful home located just 2 km from the city centre. It is up on a hill and has the most phenomenal views of Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables mountain range from every room. It is super clean and absolutely perfect for the four of us.

Flying into Queenstown means flying over the Southern Alps. The day of our arrival was sunny and very clear so the views of the Alps were spectacular. The snow capped peaks and rugged rocky cliffs … simply awe inspiring! We even got a glimpse of several glaciers along the way. Until we came to New Zealand I never really knew what diverse geography they have from beaches to mountains to glaciers to farmland and beautiful forests. It’s really very spectacular. If I could recommend one country for people not to miss in their lifetime, it would be New Zealand.

We landed at Queenstown Airport around 1530 hours. The sun is already beginning to set behind the massive mountains that surround this quaint lakeside town. As we exit the airport and head to find our car in the car park we are greeted with a blast of icy cold air. Oh yes, it’s much, much colder here than in Whangerie. The temp this afternoon is around 4°C (39° F). Now if you are from cold climates you probably don’t think much of this but for a ragtag group of sailors used to living in the tropics this was quite shocking to our systems…so much so that it literally took our breath away.

We located our car and headed to the grocery store to pick up a few items for breakfast and some dinners. After all, we have a fully equipped kitchen at the house we are renting so why go out to eat for every single meal? Of course we also hit the liquor store to provision up with some beer, vodka, rum and wine. It’s very obvious that keeping warm is going to be essential and you should always start by warming the insides first. With our provisioning complete we head out to find our home for the next ten days.

We have all been to Queenstown in the past so we are somewhat familiar with our surroundings. Our temporary abode is just a short ten minute drive from the store along the beautiful lake. As we exit the main road we wind our way up up the mountain and soon find the house. We were warned that the driveway is a bit narrow and narrow it is with the house on one side and a fece on the other and mere inches of clearance between them and the SUV we are driving. Of course Dan negotiates it with ease and soon we are unloading our things and checking out our home base.

WOW! This place is exactly as described in their Air BnB ad and corresponding photos but until you actually stand inside and look out of the plate glass windows to take in the view of the lake and mountains you really can’t appreciate it. There was still ice not the grass outside and with the sunset the frosty white mountain peaks were glowing above the lake. It was absolutely awe inspiring!

We put our groceries away and picked our bedrooms and met back downstairs for a traditional “anchor down” beer. While Gabi and I checked out the kitchen opening cabinets to see what appliances and dishes are available, Dan and Lutz were checking the wood supply and wood burning stove. We know we will be getting a lot of use out of that in the coming week.

Soon John and Karen the owners of the house show up to help get us acclimated. John goes over the operation of the stove and Karen talks to Gabi and I about restaurants, hikes and things we shouldn’t miss while we are here. They are an amazing couple and very kind. She’s from Germany and he’s a Kiwi. We truly enjoyed our visit with them.

Does the “W” remind you
of anything???

After they left we decide since it is our first night in town and it is getting late we will head out to get a bite to eat rather than cook at home. On Karen’s recommendation we make our way to The Cow. Contrary to what you might think from its name, this is not a steak restaurant, rather a pizza and spaghetti place. It’s the oldest continually run restaurant in Queenstown and has had the exact same menu since 1977 when it first opened. Located on Cow Street the building was originally stone stables where they housed milk cows that would wander the lane back in the old days. And, interestingly enough, it’s not named because of the street. It’s name after Queen Victoria. Apparently one of the more crude nicknames for her was ” the Cow”. Apparently she made a statement likening breastfeeding to being a cow and instructed her daughter never to practice it. Knowing the history of the name you can see the subtle reference to Queen Victoria’s comment in their logo.

Photo is property of The Cow and is used with their express permission.

Inside this place reminds you of an old Swiss chalet with it’s stone walls, heavy wooden beams, roughhewn wood tables and dim lighting and candles. It’s small inside with maybe ten or twelve tables and has a large stone fireplace in the middle just across from the bar where people who are waiting to be seated gather to warm up and sip their mulled wine, beer or cocktail. The atmosphere was simply wonderful and quite frankly the pizza was exceptional! There wasn’t piece left between the two large pizzas we ordered.

Since it had been a fairly long day we headed back to the house to sit by a warm fire and relax after dinner. The house was beautiful, the company divine and all was absolutely perfect in the world!

Until next time…

Jilly & Dan

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Day #4 – On The Road Again

We got up early and headed out this morning. We had a short two hour drive from Rotorua to Waitomo. The drive across the country was beautiful. There’s lots of lush, green farmland and sheep are everywhere.

It seems that everywhere you go in this country there’s a bakery on the corner so along the way we stopped in a little town called Kihikihi at Viands Bakery. What an amazing stop this turned out to be. They had a wonderful case full of the most decadent looking pastries and my personal favorite….meat pies. I’m becoming addicted to these things. It’s going to be a sad day when we leave and I can’t get them anymore. Anyway, in reading about Viands after we left I see they are famous for their award winning pies. The New Zealand Herald says “They have won more pie awards than most people have had hot dinners.” One thing for sure, our food was spectacular!

With full bellies we headed out for the last hour of our journey but before leaving this charming little town we stopped back up the hill at a small historical area. They had an old police station, jail, cottage and church. It was Sunday so they were closed but we did spend a half hour or so walking the grounds and enjoying the beautiful sunshine.

When we arrived in Te Kuiti which is just minutes from Waitomo, our first order of business was to stop and check into Tutanekai’s Cottage, our Air B&B for the night. Well, we certainly hit the jackpot with this little gem! OH MY! This little house was absolutely perfectly appointed and the art and decorations made it so special. It even had beautiful gardens outside where you could just sit and relax and enjoy the flowers and outdoor decorations. And, our Host and Hostess even left freshly baked raspberry muffins on the table and milk and eggs in the refrigerator.

Janet & Theo, our hosts, own the home and live next door in a beauty of a place that is a renovated schoolhouse. What delightful people! They gave us the warmest of welcomes and offered to provide us with anything at all that we needed from information on the area to fresh vegetables from their own garden. They even invited us for cocktails with their friends later that evening. We just can’t say enough about these fabulous people and the amazing accommodations. They even had beautiful robes in the closet for us to use and little shampoos and lotions in our rooms. It was like staying in a five star resort. If you are ever in the area and need a place to stay, this IS THE ONE! But I’d say you better book early because this place is going to take off like gangbusters. Thank you again Janet & Theo. Our stay there was the highlight of our trip!

We checked into this delightful house and took a breather for a bit. Then, it was off to the Waitomo Glowworm Caves. New Zealand is home to an interesting species of glowworms. The Arachnocampa luminosa is only found here. The glowworm is actually the larval or maggot stage of a fungus gnat fly. The adult looks a bit like a mosquito. They typically spend their entire lives inside of a cave.

The reason they are called glowworms is because they actually glow with a bluish light. This is created from a biochemical reaction called bioluminescence which takes place at the terminal end of the renal glands of the larval worm. This light is called a “cold” light which is pure and has almost no associated heat. They use this light to attract small flying insects that are lost in the darkness of the caves. Adult female can also produce this light which is said to help them attract a mate.

The glowworms attach a silk hammock to the cave ceiling. They gather food by building a network of silk threads that hang vertically around the hammock. The silk threads have droplets of a very sticky mucus that traps the flying insect. Once trapped the worm simply pulls the thread up to the hammock and into its mouth where it sucks out the juices and spits out the hard parts. Kind of like a human eating chicken wings. LOL

The cave here in Waitomo is absolutely huge! As we were guided down into the cave they stopped in an open area called the cathedral, and for good reason. It’s an enormous open area with spectacular acoustics. Apparently some people actually hold their wedding in this part of the cave. It would certainly make for some interesting photographs. Speaking of which, the photos here are either from their Facebook page or from photos I took of some postcards Mary purchased. They won’t let you take photos inside the caves. Of course they will happily take them for you and sell them to you. It seems everyone has their hand out in this country.

Photo Found at Waitomo Glowworm Caves Facebook Site

The tour of the caves lasted about an hour. They led us through the cathedral area and around some tunnels and then we went down into an area that is completely black, with the exception of thousands of blue dots that look like stars on the ceiling. Once you go down the stairs you are escorted onto a small boat that holds eight or ten people. The guide then pulls the boat through the water using these lines they have installed between the cave walls. This part of the tour maybe lasted about ten minutes before they led the boat out into the light and dropped us at a small dock.

While it was certainly an interesting experience, we’re not sure it was entirely worth the $53 NZD/person entrance fee. (That’s approximately $36 USD) There are caves in New Zealand that you can explore for free and see the same things. Knowing what we know now we’d probably have opted for that option. Don’t get us wrong, they have something pretty cool stuff to see there but the price is a little steep for what you get. Apparently, however, they have no shortage of tourists willing to spend the money so as they say, “it’s all supply & demand.”

After leaving the caves we stopped back in town at a little restaurant at the old railroad station for an early dinner. It’s called the Stoked Eatery and the food was pretty tasty. It was a nice warm day and we enjoyed our meal sitting outside watching the trains come by. Then it was back to the house to relax and get ready for the long drive the following day.

Next stop….Wellington, the capital of New Zealand.

Cheers,

Dan & Jilly

Oh yeah, one last thing….it appears Dan has his own line of lawnmowers. We saw this one in a store window in town here. Who knew?

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Day #1 – NZ Roadtrip

We came to Auckland last night and spent the evening with our dear Kiwi friends, Sean & Donna. It’s always such a delight to get to spend time with them. This morning we were up bright and early and off to the airport to pick up Jack & Mary. We’re both super excited to see them and get this party started.

Their plane was a bit late but we finally scooped them up and began the three-hour drive south to Rotorua, our first stop. On the way we stopped at a little café to get a cup of coffee and give Jack & Mary a chance to walk around a bit.

On the way in we spotted this perfect photo spot. Of course Dan jumped at the chance to get into the pic.

After a cup of coffee and a few sweets we were on the road again. The scenery was truly spectacular!

Before heading to the B&B we stopped at the grocery store and liquor store. We’re cooking in tonight. After all they’ve been on a 13-hour flight from Los Angeles and some down time will do them good.

Our Rotorua B&B turns out to be quite nice. It’s slightly dated but we aren’t buying it, we’re simply staying here for a few days. That said, it’s super clean and has everything we need. And, it has a lovely backyard and deck that is just perfect for hanging out, grilling and enjoying some laughs. We’re very pleased with our first accommodations! Thank you to Steph for making the process a smooth one.

Tomorrow we’re off to explore Rotorua. Check back to see what exciting treasures we are able to find it this great little town here on the North Island.

Cheers,

Jilly & Dan