Australia & New Zealand – Days 28 and 29

The Beginning of the End

The departure from Queenstown was, in reality, the beginning of the end as we started back north to arrive in Christchurch and a flight home. Today we were heading for Twizel, no not Twizzle, think of the same pronunciation as twilight. The heavens opened on leaving Queenstown but we had few complaints as the weather had been very kind throughout New Zealand with lots of sun and seldom nithering. The road north included a stop in Cromwell where I espied this cycling joy of a tool centre that could help you inflate your tyres or tune up the bike whilst en route.


The front passenger seat was vacant on the bus but if so inclined you could jump in and join the guide. One benefit apart from the better view was the opportunity to commandeer the music selection and so I plugged in my phone and treated the passengers to my eclectic record collection. They were captive, they had no escape for several hours.

Riding shotgun

One of the deficiencies about the bus, amongst several design flaws eg. no internal storage and seats as wide as Economy on a Ryanair flight was that you could barely hear in the front of the bus the music that was, possibly, blaring out in the middle of the bus.

The guide’s automatic reaction in any case, when moving, was to play music, not that she heard it! For the guests to drink in the views to a bit of hip hop, Meatloaf or ABBA wasn’t the right soundtrack for sumptuous valleys, rugged coastlines or gazing at those magnificent big wide open skies over the distant mountain ranges. She really thought she/we should always drive to music. A partial solution was at least to play some songs you liked, I took the initiative.

We had lunch in Twizel but afterwards continued to the end of Lake Pukaki where most of us embarked on a 6 mile hike to get closer to Mount Cook (named after the Yorkshireman).

At the end of the path we saw a lake with the remarkable sight of bits of glacier plonked within it, they had slid down here from the main glacier.

Mount Cook’s there somewhere
Block of glacier

Unfortunately the top of the mountain was obscured in mist/cloud on this overcast day but it didn’t diminish the pleasure of the walk or the sense of achievement of adding another decent hike to our holiday.

One of the guests had wanted to organise a wine tasting evening as entertainment. Only New Zealand wines, of course, were to be considered. It was all ad hoc in arrangement and I have to ruefully note that the House of Ives unwittingly brought nearly 30% of the night’s wine to the party, for the 10 imbibers. Needless to say wine tasting turned into an elderly piss up whilst the five youngest didn’t attend!

It was a long night and during the merriment I personally had time to go into Twizel for a Thai meal with non-imbibers and return to find them still knocking it back.

I was very disappointed with Anna and her reckless pursuit of pleasure in my absence. In the end I dragged her back to the room as we had to get up and be away for 7am the next morning.

The night was a great success with all except the guide who had her own pre-arranged plans changed through the ‘grey’ drinking soirée. We’d had our third birthday fall on the holiday! In the guide’s world of pre-ordained responses this activated a cake, a communal dinner and singing. The fact that the latest guest to have this befall was really not bothered to celebrate her birthday; truth be told she’d already had quite a few before!

Grown in Cromwell

Given the ‘wine tasting’, dinner had to be cancelled and whilst I saw the cake it was never cut up or shared. (Chocolate for those interested.) To add to the woes of the guide she was booked by G Adventures into separate lodgings, a hostel, and appeared bleary eyed the next morning advising that her room was next to a crying baby’s (all night.) Given she was working so hard and not least driving hundreds of miles a decent night’s sleep seemed recommended?

Apparently Rakaia is famous for its fish

The itinerary said we were off to Christchurch the next day but G Adventures had other ideas. They had diverted us, before Christchurch, to visit Akaroa. A delightful small town and harbour where we’d take a boat out to sea to see wildlife.

Salted caramel and orange chip

Why such largesse? Well the ship’s captain on our disrupted sail around Doubtful Sound had advised, over the tannoy, that we were all entitled to a refund. I really think that the guests were not bothered, the day hadn’t been a disaster and, truthfully, boat rides and scenery were just about max’d out by then for everyone. However, G Adventures, now presumably worried, about the prospect of giving us all over £100 each back and/or worried about getting hammered in customer reviews put on this boat ride and a free dinner on the last night. As it turned out the boat ride had its moments.

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