Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Part 9 - Two of Us - Aoraki to Christchurch via Lake Tekapo and Akaroa... yeah... it's a crazy detour but that's what we did!

Day 10 - Sunday 30th June

We laze around enjoying the comfort of our room and the late sunrise with just a hint of pink in the clouds above Aoraki. The river of cloud that is flowing in from the west and down the face of the mountain continues unchanging. We expected it to move across and block the view of Aoraki but it simply flows over the mountain and down into the valley. 
More or less packed up, it’s heading on for 9 am and the sunlight is hitting the peaks of the mountains before we head downstairs, over the air bridge and past mounds of snow cleared from the parking area.The icicles that were hanging from the snow drifts on the roof are gone. 

The kids have included a fully cooked breakfast for us, knowing that’s what Hubby always prefers. I would generally prefer a light breakfast but I’m tempted by the pancakes and bacon with maple syrup.  The maple syrup is very dark and thick. Very different to the Canadian maple syrup I buy. The hash browns are plentiful but all stuck together and sort of mushy, conglomeration but I give one a go. Michael has done the works on the whole traditional full English breakfast. We settle down at a table and tuck in. Oh dear. The food is plentiful but the quality is lacking. My bacon is awful. I’ve noticed the same effect in supermarket bacon at home. It isn’t cured properly and just tastes “piggy”… and the pancake is not nice either. How have they managed that? I don’t like the syrup. It’s sickly and lacking that distinctive smokey maple flavour.  I sample it on it’s own and it seems too sweet even without the syrup. Sigh.The best thing about breakfast is the views as we eat. Oh well.

We hang about enjoying the view and relaxing until it’s time for check out, then we’re on our way back through the snow lined highway heading for Lake Tekapo.  True to our routine we note the temperature as we get settled in the car - no wonder the snow on the roofs of the Hermitage is dripping water. It’s 8C! A final few moments to try and ensure we have ample reminders of the scene with the Hermitage cuddled up in white.
 Sir Edmund Hillary should be comfy enough out in the snow!

As we pass the road to Tasman Valley all that gives its presence away are the signs, the road is closed and the ground is just a thick blanket of white. We’re retracing our steps of yesterday but the novelty of the abundant snow is far from having worn off. The road is clear and it’s a relatively warm morning. 
 The bare branches provide a vibrant slash of colour.
It's only a brief farewell to Aoraki as we drive away from him. Once you know what you're looking at he draws your eye across fields and the lake.  
 There’s not much to do beyond enjoy the scenery across the lake and in time, the snow mounded up on the trees in the pine plantation, but that's enough. I feel sure there is nowhere better on earth for a scenic drive than New Zealand.
The temperature fluctuates a little across our drive. It dips as we reach Lake Tekapo which is virtually unrecognizable under the snow. We stop at the Church of the Good Shepherd as the congregation is trickling in for Sunday services.
 Signs outside request that visitors please respect the service in progress and keep the noise down. There’s no shortage of people picking their way carefully over pathways of compacted, icy, snow and along the cleared stairs and main route for access in and around the church. We head on to try and find the picnic spot where we stopped last time I was here. I want to try for a comparison photo. The snow is quite thick, but the only picnic tables I can find are on the opposite side of the road to last time.  There’s a big new housing development. I don’t remember that. Have they moved the road? Surely not. With the mounds of snow there’s not really anywhere to pull over on the lakeside but as we move on I see a sign to a lookout. Hey! Let’s head back to the lookout. We turn in at the appropriate spot and the “lookout” seems to be just a parking area with views across the road to the lake. Parking is virtually non-existant at the moment (perhaps buried in snow?) Hubby stays with the car as I hop out to try to get the photos I want. Hmm. I can’t see much from here. 
A virgin field of snow lies between me and a concrete picnic table. I laugh as I trudge through the snow which is well up towards my knees. Oh boy this would be fun with kids! I imagine Grandson laughing as he throws himself down into the snow, like he was doing in some long grass in the backyard not long ago.  I climb up onto the seat and point the camera towards the lake.
The sun is in a very inconvenient location for photographs. Nought we can do about that. The colour is not so striking as when we visited in Spring. The composition is difficult from here. The road is quite intrusive.
I climb down and trudge back through the deep imprint of my footsteps, across to the road climbing up the snow embankment to try to get a better shot. That’s better. The colour is better if you're looking away from the sun.. of course.
Back at the car I consult the road Atlas. I can’t see anywhere else we could possibly have been for our picnic last time. They must have moved the road, but that makes no sense. Maybe there’s tables under the snow between the road and the lake or something. If so they are completely covered. 
Tommie is suggesting our likely arrival time in Christchurch will leave us several hours before dark. I mull over what to do. I don’t feel like a museum or anything like that. I’m enjoying the drive. I’m consulting the road Atlas for ideas of places we might explore. I feel OK. So Tommie, how long will it take us if we were to head out to Akaroa for a reccie?  Hmm. We should just have time to get out there and back by dark. Hmm. I leave Tommie programmed for Akaroa for the moment while we mull it over. We’ll make a decision when we get closer. See how we’re feeling.
As we climb down from altitude we make a final farewell to the snow at a popular lookout. 
We stop again in Rakaia at the ah.. salmon farm isn’t it?  We follow Tommie’s quite odd instructions for a shortcut towards the Banks Peninsula. Roads are closed due to flooding. We do our own navigating back onto the more usual route. 
The road out to Akaroa is very winding. We toy with the idea of taking the higher road, but Hubby’s more inclined to just stick with the quickest route for now. Coming this late in my explorations of the South Island, the Banks peninsula is in tough company for ranking among the abundance of spectacular scenery. On balance I conclude that the driving is harder and the scenery no better than on the Otago pensinsula, I think I would rank the Otago Peninsula a smidgen or two in front. 
As we near Akaroa we start to pass what we assume are daytrippers returning to Christchurch from their Sunday outing. Soon we are entering the township and taking a turn. Hmm. 
I’m looking for heritage buildings and there’s plenty of them, but the overall effect is lessened by some modern redevelopments here and there. Some of the pretty old buildings are draped in bare branches that make promises of floral displays in spring. An impressive stone war memorial is isolated by ugly wire construction fencing, an appeal for funds for restoration facing the street as we pull up briefly. It’s always sad to see a war memorial in such condition. I wonder what circumstances have caused to it being in this state. We don’t have time to stop in Akaroa long, but I have to confess we weren’t too troubled by that. We head on.

I have an abhorrence of retracing my steps, so with a little clock watching we head across to Pigeon Bay and travel around via Port Levy, little settlements on the northern side of the pensinsula that I had found enticing when doing my research on this area.  This is more fun than the main drag, but the scenery is very similar to what we’ve already seen. I’m determined to take the meandering road less travelled back to Christchurch. This decision takes us on a quite hair raising dirt road through steep farmlands and around picturesque little bays. As an “off the beaten track” exercise this route is paying dividends. I enjoy exploring a lot, but it’s not really a tourist must do. Time is always so short on a New Zealand holiday, even scenery as good as this has to struggle for time on any itinerary. 
A short stop near Port Levy, we decide there's probably not much point following the signs to the village centre and opt for a short stop to stretch our legs and enjoy the bobbing boats as the light begins to fade.

Back through Diamond Harbour, we stop to see if there’s an easy viewpoint to try and capture a pretty sunset. I find a steep walk heading down to the ferry wharf, but pike. It’s getting late. We should just move along.
We’ve told Tommie to head us towards Pedros House of Lamb, not remembering that it is closed today, I guess we may have taken the same initial route if we’d headed straight for Lorenzo, but my decision to explore is rewarded by wonderful views across the lights of Christchurch as we wind our way down a long steep hill. Hubby is chastised as he drives straight on past the lookout. Grr. Sometimes I wonder about is situational awareness.. or is it the reflexes… sigh.
Our studio room at Lorenzo is lovely. It’s more like a one room apartment, have we been upgraded again? There’s no vacancies so that seems unlikely. The Lorenzo Motor Inn is excellent. Why would you stay anywhere else?
So, Pedro’s out of the running, Costa’s Taverna is our default dinner destination tonight. If we can get in.  All the actual tables are full, but they have a small perch on high stools in the bar under a funky blue light and we can order food there too. We make ourselves comfortable against a decorative partition wall of white pebblecrete made of negative space stars. 
Hubby starts with a Mythos beer. When on holidays he always likes to try something different and he’s not disappointed with this one.  He starts with the Dreaming of Dolmades. Vegetarian, Gluten free, steam softened grape vine leaves, filled with sticky Arborio rice and fine herbs, dressed with extra virgin olive ‘n lemon oil and served with a thick ‘n creamy tzatziki $11.90.  I can’t resist testing Grandma’s Cheese Pastries, vegetarian, just like our grandma used to make, flaky triangular pastries, filled with four types of scrumptious melted cheese, served with thick ‘n creamy tzatziki - also $11.90.
Our last night. I can’t resist trying a mocktail. How about a Blueberry Mojito which they spruik as a magical blend of blueberry, mint and lime, a remarkably refreshing drink $9. Lovely. Refreshing.
Oh, do I need to say, the starters were delicious. Goes without saying doesn’t it for the no 2 ranked restaurant in Christchurch on Tripadvisor.
Hubby decides we simply must try the Ferrero Rocher mocktail despite my not having finished the Blueberry Mojito. He's too manly to have it himself. It's for me....Indulgent chocolate and hazlenut flavoured, creamy mocktail $9. Delicious.
Mains. Hubby – Legendary Lamb Shanks, Dairy and Gluten free, slide off the bone lamb shanks braised in fresh garlic, tomato and red wine sauce, served over fragrant jasmine rice and a medley of fire roasted Mediterranean vegetables. One shank 24.50 two shanks 29.90.  This was heavily spiced with cinnamon, hubby relished it, my mum would hate it.
I won the competition easily with my choice of Grilled Canterbury Lamb from Costas Souvlaki Platters. Export quality Canterbury lamb marinated in our delicious herb ‘n spice mix and blasted on Costas flaming chargrills to absolute perfection! I go for the regular at $24.90 (one skewer). An extra skewer in the Grand version would set you back $29.90.  Each mouth-watering souvlaki platter comes with toasted village pita bread (Sooooo gooooood), garden salad, hummus, sweet tomato sauce, roast capsicum mayonnaise and tzatziki. Along with a choice of herb and spice rice pilaf; rosemary ‘n oregano potatoes; or golden fries. I chose the rosemary ‘n oregano potatoes. A very filling and delicious meal. And those pita bread were truly scrumptious.
We’re way to full for dessert. We play it safe and don’t look at the options. Costas was worth the drive.
On the way home some road closures give Tommie some entertainment, but we work it out by just going a bit further on the main road that is open and before long we are skipping quickly inside to our cozy studio. Very early flight tomorrow so we get ourselves packed up. Set alarms and head for the land of nod. I’m enjoying my Seaside Knitter’s Mystery. 

Friday, July 5, 2013

Part 8 - Two of us to Lindis Pass and Aoraki

Day 9 Saturday 29th June

We have a couple of days on our own now to enjoy the wonderful gift our kids have given us for our 30th Wedding Anniversary. They chipped in for our flights, and have organized a night at the Hermitage at Aoraki Mt Cook, dinner in the Panorama Room and anything else we want to do there. Daughter1 was there with me in 2009 and so she knew that we all wanted to come back here with our respective hubbies.
I check our rental contract carefully to ensure we don’t inadvertently breach it. I’m sure I read on previous trips that we couldn't drive certain roads, including the Lindis Pass at certain times of year between certain times. This time there’s nothing in the fine print we need to worry about this time. None-the-less we don’t set off until the check out time of 10 o’clock. No point leaving too early, what with the risk of ice on the roads. 
The car is frosted with pretty traceries of ice crystals over the glass, so we need to turn the car on and defrost the windscreen as we load up. 
Our route takes us back through Cromwell. Where we stop and pick up a couple of apples in varieties we’ve never had before – Lemonade and Pacific Queen; a couple of bananas and some delicious dried stone fruit to have on the journey. What junk food we have remaining is slated as souvenirs and it’s high time we took our food choices towards the healthy side. 
Sarita Orchard Shop
Heading on from our brief stop, there is an area of plentiful frost where the trees are white with the growth of crystals. It’s so pretty. We drive carefully! No need to rush. There's not a huge amount of traffic and we're in no rush. Have no desire to rush through the beautiful scenes we are passing. 
Cromwell beyond the bridge over the Clutha River

Looking back over Lake Dunstan
Snow. Snow. Snow. Lindis Pass is almost unrecognizable from our previous trip in the spring. The snow glitters and sparkles in the sun. Slopes show the waving lines of skiers having taken advantage of the fresh powder. Animals leave criss crossing tracks. What delightful scenery. We stop at the Lindis Pass summit lookout and carefully pick out way to the little wooden railed platform.  That low sun is a pain, but we manage some reasonable photos to show the family.  We head on. I’m so glad we have had the snow to see. It’s brilliant in every sense of the word. We’re not feeling the cold so much now. I think we may have done a fair bit of acclimatising. There’s no wind either, so the chill factor isn’t at issue at the moment.
Lindis Pass Summit Lookout
We continue on through snowy scenes. The temperature rises as we get to Omarama. An impromptu turn at the sign for the Clay Cliffs. This must take us in for a better look at the erosion spectacle we have admired from the highway. Hubby would love a good look at that. We come to gravel. OK. Then a gate with a large sign. Clay Cliffs is on private land. $5 entry payable at the hot springs at Omarama. There’s also a secure payment box. Ah. Then I notice another sign on the gate. "This waterway is infected with didymo"… oh. Well that’s that then. I’m not going to cross any rivers or go anywhere with a quarantine warning sign on it. We’re not cleaning this car and I can’t rely on Avis to do it to quarantine standard either. We head back. Perhaps just as well anyway. 
Twizel is another snowy wonderland. Visibility becomes poor. I hope it’s clear up at Lake Pukaki! Pine plantations look beautiful with the rich green branches draped in snow. The verge is heaped with snow ploughed off the highway limiting opportunities to stop. It’s a bit clearer as we make the turn up to Aoraki Mt Cook National Park and I note that Aoraki is in larger print than the Mt Cook below it. Progress in making the name change? 
There’s a bank of low lying cloud affecting the lookout from Peter’s Lookout, but the scene has the promise of clearer vantages as we get closer. 
The lake is a beautiful blue perfectly complimenting the snow laying thickly on the far banks and upper reaches, not to mention the alps.  We head on. The road is clear and the driving is easy, despite the care required. This is just fabulous. We are so glad we came.
The Hermitage is very busy. Car parks are full and It’s a struggle to find somewhere to park to check in. Lots of people wandering about clearly enjoying the scene. 
The roof has large banks of snow that drape and curl over the edge of the roof, long icicles hang, down dripping water. Barriers are erected to keep visitors away from areas where ice or snow may fall on them. The little garden where I stood to watch the sunrise in the springtime, is under a heaving dump of deep snow. And the view of Aoraki is clear. Beautifully clear. This is definitely one of New Zealand’s premier locations. The ground floor smells of the open wood fire that in the lobby. The ambience is very romantic and cosy. We check in and head to our room – 920. This is on the second highest floor and it has a clear view of Aoraki and smaller windows that look out to the east so we will be able to watch the sunrise in comfort. The kids have spared no expense to make this a memorable stay. Our room is comfortable. The bed is very comfortable. This is a very cosy nook to curl up in and enjoy the view. What a view.
Hubby’s hungry so he wants to head down to the café quickly before it closes and get something light. Save yourself for dinner I warn. However he’s ordered the beef stir fry from the bain marie.  Oh dear. That’s risky at this time of day. I bite my tongue, afterall I don’t have to eat it.  I’m not that overwhelmed with enthusiasm for anything on offer, but figure the croissant is a safe bet. Would I like it warmed? Oh, yeah, OK, thanks. Silly choice. They overheat it and clearly this has been achieved by microwave. Sigh. Should have just skipped getting anything. I abandon Hubby briefly to retrieve something or other from the room. On my return his comment accompanied by raised eyebrows is telling. “Quite an achievement to make rice your rice both gluggy and hard.” “Yeah well. That was a bit predictable really.” One of the things you could actually see before buying would have been a better bet. The quiches looked OK.
We chill out in our room watching the view and a bit of tele and just relaxing until it’s time to head down to dinner. No views in the evening it gets dark before the Panorama Room opens. Now the windows are draped in rich red velvet curtains. We are shown to our table and peruse the menu. Hubby orders an apricot wheat beer. It’s actually got apricots in it. Smells great. Tastes good too he says. First course I opt for the Tomato and basic consommé. Hubby goes for the crayfish. I win. My consommé which we have been warned is served cold, is lovely. Beautifully presented and accompanied by a petit square of dark rye topped with tangy slices of cherry tomato. Delicious.  I sample hubbys crayfish which has arrived, just a few pieces of meat in a dark rich bisque. It’s OK but I think the delicate crayfish flavour is overwhelmed by the rest. I’m glad I got the comsomme.
Mains I went for the poached chicken with assiette of vegetables and crème fraiche. Weird. No other word for it. Just not up to scratch in my opinion. I could have done it as well or better. The chicken was dry, the vegetable assiette was just small croutons of cauliflower and other winter vegetables which were lightly steamed. No dressing or other treatment that I could tell. There’s some nicely roasted walnut pieces that add a nice touch… and um.. some little dots of red stuff. No sign of crème fraiche. For the price charged this is outrageously inadequate. I’ve also ordered a serve of fried potatoes with sour cream. Thank god I was greedy. The sour cream improves my main quite substantially. Perhaps I wouldn’t have been so disappointed if the crème fraiche was provided, but this is a conclusion in retrospect. I didn’t remember it was supposed to have the crème fraich until looking at the dessert menu later. Too late to send it back.  Hubby chose .. um “what was it you had dear?”… Pause for thought….. hubby chose… something entirely forgettable. Hubby is watching me write this and he laughs… “That’s rude.. it was quite nice compared to yours.”  Haha he can’t tell me what it was, though, doesn’t that say it all? On to dessert. Dessert is an improvement. Hubby had a nice hokey pokey crumble which was a deconstructed arrangement of honeycomb pieces. I had the cherry berry with strawberry pannacotta. This would have been really good, except the strawberry pannacotta wasn’t nice. Not sweetened and it didn’t taste like strawberry either. I guess the intent was to provide a foil to the other flavours on the plate. Well, I guess it did up to a point. Man the rest of it tasted good after the pannacotta.

We head back to our room. Dinner was, on the whole, very disappointing. Perhaps it’s just as well our actually anniversary meal will be at home at our favourite restaurant. I feel bad mostly for the kids. They were hoping this meal would be really memorable in a good way. The Hermitage is in a fantastic location. The room is great. The food really lets it down. IMHO if you’re paying the tariff asked for the better rooms and the elite dining option here, you really expect a higher standard of food that what is available. 

The Travelling Trio Part 7 - Shotover Jet and Arrowtown

Day 8 - Friday 28th June

Son heads for home today. A check of his itinerary reveals he needs to be checked in by ten to three. We are driven out of the house by tickets for the Shotover Jet at 10 am. We check travel time and best route with our host and he confirms Tommie’s recommendation. The temperature is in minus figures and the car is frosted but the road is dry. 
Even taking our time, it’s less than 15 minutes before we’re pulling into the parking area for the jetboats. We obtain our tickets and head out again and down the hill to the check in hut. There’s a large Contiki group ahead of us. So we chill out… literally… as we watch the comings and goings of the boats as they zip back and forth. It’s nearly 10.30 before we’re all decked out in waterand windproof overcoats and life jackets and are bustled across for our group photo. Then we’re down the ramp and climbing down into the jet boat. 
Our driver is a veteran of over 10 years and it shows. He is slick and professional as is the whole operation. The hand rails are heated but they are not as warm as the ones on the Wanaka River Journey’s boat and don’t really do much on the keeping me warm front. At least they aren’t rods of ice to hang on to.
First up we do a leap and a pass with waving for the cameras on the jetty, then we go tearing down through the rocky gorge doing 360s regularly and continuing straight on. There’s multiple boats operating through the same section of river and there is a carefully choreographed routine to avoid collision. Each boat has a spot where they have to pull up to wait for the other boat to come through, so everyone knows where the others are.  At first our eyes scream at us. Watering and stinging from the wind chill. Son soon pulls his neck thingy up over his nose and mouth. I’m hiding my mouth and nose behind the collar of my own coat. Ah. That’s better. Our eyes adjust after a few minutes and it’s then a matter of just enjoying the ride.  Well, unless you are hubby. He’s lost his headwear. Oh gee that must sting I think. It mustn’t be too bad because he didn’t notice the hat go.  Maybe he was concentrating on the motion sickness. He hasn’t got sick on our other jet boat trips maybe he’s still a bit sensitive after feeling ill for a while on the boat the other day. Having gone down river then up river we head down river again and Hubby fears he’s not going to be able to avoid throwing up. We stop down river again and we are all quizzed, where are we from (almost all Australians and one American with a Kiwi companion) and “Who has been on a jetboat before,
? First time? Last time?” We win with this being our third, but Hubby announces it is also his last.  Yeah, I think it might be my last too. I don’t think I need to do this again. I’m a bit surprised that I’m not really feeling the g-forces much and now I really get the supreme manoevrability of these boats I’m not getting the adrenaline rush as we narrowly miss the rocks such along the way. I contemplate the difference to the Rapids Jet out of Taupo. Riding the white water on the Rapids Jet is more exciting I think… but it was also my first jetboat ride… hmmm. Hard to tell…. But I settle on Rapids Jet being the most fun. Not that there’s anything wrong with the fun on the Shotoverjet! Unless you get sick of course.
So what now. Yeah yeah. We get the video pack. It’s well presented and quite fun and this is a landmark trip with Son. They’ve put some effort installing the camera system and having the photographer there etc. I don’t mind them making a return on it and they give us the digital versions online as well.  I also pick up a pair of those nice overgloves we wore on the Wanaka River Journeys trip. They make a real difference over the top of our merino mink gloves.  Son and I peruse the signed celebrity pictures on a wall. For some of those people I wonder how the staff knew who the heck they were. I shouldn’t have thought them household names.. like some guy who founded some company I’ve never heard of. Not a NZ company mind you.  What? Do these people announce who they are when they are booking? Does Shotoverjet google every passenger? Do they arrive with a security entourage in tow? It’s a mystery. 
So, what do you want to do for the rest of day I ask Son.  Eat. He replies. OK. Brunch it is. We’re off to Provisions of Arrowtown to test their sticky buns and other wares. Son and I go for the Provisions Muesli with greek yoghurt and fruit. Hubby goes for the prawn fettucine. Haha I KNEW he would order that! The pasta again arrives with about twice as much sauce as would be delicious. Seems to be the popular approach over here. There’s a flavour I can’t quite place in my muesli… is it the pepitos? .. Hmmm. Ah I know, it’s bran. Lots of bran in this muesli. The yoghurt is nice. That’s a pretty big complement because our local dairy at home does a very natural yoghurt (just milk and culture and a bit of honey to sweeten) that is a prize winner and consequently we’ve been ruined for having yoghurt from anywhere else. .. I hope you appreciate my refraining from a yoghurt rant…It’s taking some effort! Haha
Son and I also sample a sticky bun. It’s a swirl of croissant pastry with dried fruit in the middle, topped with a gooey caramel and slivered almonds. Nice… but it is a bit too cold for optimal appreciation… and the memory of that cinnamon swirl in Dunedin is very tough competition indeed.
So, what now? We’ve still got nearly three hours. Son elects to go for a drive out to Glenorchy along Lake Wakitipu. The driving is pleasant and the views along the way are likewise pleasant, until to come to a lookout with a gorgeous vista over the head of the lake. A must stop and it’s been worth the drive. We continue on a very short way past Glenorchy itself before we figure we’d better head back to the airport. The views on the return are better than the way out, and the sun is behind us which helps a lot. It’s been a lovely drive.
I ask son what his favourite part of the trip has been. He consideres for about three or four seconds. Doubtful Sound. He’d like to come back to Doubtful Sound some time. His overall comment is that he wouldn’t have done any of the things we’ve done if I hadn’t recommended them and he’s had a great time.  Another successful conversion of a kiwi skeptic!  I point out that if he does come back he still hasn’t done the South Island Loop that includes some of the most stunning scenery in the country… this trip has only been a taster. He nods, impressed. I must point out that a comment of “I’d like to come back” is very significant. Son does not really like travelling. He does travel, but it’s usually for the company rather than the destination or for work and it’s generally not his idea. In short, he’s a chip off the old block. Hubby’s mini-me… though I’m slowly converting Hubby J
So what for the rest of the day. I feel like driving back to Cardrona. I could handle revisiting our drive back from there.. but Hubby’s keen to head home for a coffee and see how he feels. Yeah. Better I just explore Arrowtown I think. He drops me off and I’ll walk home.
I start my exploration with a walk up and down the street, browsing the shops a little. They have a lot of high end warm clothing. I generally hate shopping, so this doesn’t take long, I’m half heartedly looking for kids clothes. The need to window shop is offset by the gorgeous streetscape. I LOVE Arrowtown. It’s just lovely. The tourist in me thinks that a car free policy in the main street would add to its charm.  I note the location of Saffron and Pesto.. and further along I wander in to check out the wool store. Lots of temptation here, but I have a heavy knitting program already so I resist.  I do find something I wasn’t expecting. They sell a series of murder mysteries, something after the style of Alexander McCall Smith, the author is Sally Goldenbaum and it is the seaside knitters mystery series. Irresistable.
I wonder what the time is.  Still time for a look at the museum. I wander in and browse there in the gift shop. Hmm. A novelization of the Larnach story. I’ll give that a go. I pay for book and $8 Museum entry and head on in. The top floor is well presented and covers the local history and prominent persons. I’m a bit tired and not really processing the detail very well. I wander downstairs. Goodness. Another outstanding effort with lots of recreated premises illustrating different topics. There’s a newspaper printing room, possibly the best schoolroom I’ve seen so far, a carpenters shop. The atmosphere is really helped by soundtracks for some of them. I reckon the people who recorded the soundtrack for the shanty pub had a great time in the process! There’s even a surprise or two along the way that make me laugh. Goodness me Kiwi’s put in the effort. This place is great. There’s many a local history society at home that would benefit from a visit to any of New Zealand’s small community museums.

It’s getting late and time to head home. Hubby’s been veging out. We relax together for a while and then we need to decide what (if anything) to do about dinner.  We decide to head in to Pesto. GOOD DECISION. We’re neither of us in need of much and we’d both like to keep it fairly simple. Hubby goes for the spaghetti and meatballs and I simply cannot resist the Chestnut and haloumi ravioli. Oh…. Sooo gooood. The mains are so good we cannot resist sampling the dessert. I’m happy to share a serve of Italian doughnuts, but hubby wants a serve of Zabaglione. Both were fabulous. Hubby suffers an extended period of my proclaiming how much I like Arrowtown. Great food, great ambience. I would love to return here. Even if it was for a few days without a car. I have read that Arrowtown can get very busy and congested with tourists. It’s not at the moment, so perhaps that’s made a difference for me, but Arrowtown joins Russell up on the Bay of Islands as my two favourite historic villages in NZ. Wonderful. Both very romantic places. 

The Travelling Trio NZ - Part 6 - Doubtful Sound Return and to Arrowtown

Day 7 Thursday 27th June

I lay in bed listening to the breathing of Hubby and Son. It’s dark in the cabin but behind the curtain I see that it’s starting to get light. I tiptoe out into the breaking day. The still of early morning is a magical time on the sounds, I’m not missing this. I clamber over hubby and tiptoe outside to see where we are.  Mist is snaking and curling in drifts further up the sound. Birds are calling and somewhere around there is a minor waterfall creating a soothing background patter.  The moon is shining silver brightly against the pale blue. It won't photograph other than as a reflection in the darker water. 
As the light intensifies green begins to emerge from the palette of greys and black. The sky is blue with occasional clouds.  The cold begins to seep through and I retire back to the warmth of the cabin. A sample of Mandy’s lovely shortbread is irresistible on the way!
At about 8.30 Mandy and Dave are up and about, and the generator is started. Brekky is underway.
There’s cereal and the traditional full cooked breakfast of bacon and eggs, tomatoes and mushrooms and we’re not surprised to find there’s plenty available.  Next up we are all kayaking. The sound is like glass. The IRB is lowered to act as a platform then the kayaks are passed down from the upper deck. Not without a measure of trepidation lest we fall into the water, we follow Dave’s instructions to safety board our kayaks.
There's a choice, we can just paddle around the immediate area or head off up the fiord and get picked up when it’s time to go. It takes two hours to reach the end of crooked arm.  Z and A take don’t venture too far but I’m off. Son is behind me. and Hubby is falling behind. I head back to check he’s going OK. Lose the lead and then there’s no catching Son. He’s well into it.
We string out as we round the corner. So peaceful. Time in the wilderness away from the hordes of mankind is vital to the spirit. We paddle and pause. Listen. Watch the reflections in the mirror of the inky water; the ripples and tiny whirlpool created by gentle paddling. Watching the shoreline, I imagine a Maori warrior bursting from the forest and giving a challenge, I paddle on. Eventually we hear the chugging of the Tutoku II underway. Son sits quietly in his kayak. I catch up. He doesn’t need to tell me what he's feeling, I can see it in his face. Anyway I'm not sure there are words that would convey the magic of this experience. We chat quietly and paddle together back towards the boat. The reflections are even better when heading back. We glide across a mirror. I enjoy watching the the little whirlpools of turbulance  created by my paddle.
Following Son as he slowly glides, the glassy surface flexes and rise with the ripples trailing from his kayak.  Hubby is first of our party to take the challenge of getting back out of the kayak. Then Son gives me a demo of how the trim and fit do it. I hand up the camera and do a fair imitation of Hubby’s inelegant self extraction. Well we don’t fall in the water at any rate!
We relax as we cruise down Crooked Arm warming ourselves inside and talking. What a contrast in Crooked Arm to when last I was here! It was an enormous wall of cascading water then. Now it’s the forest and ferns and occasional tiny trickles that you have to look hard to find...and the mirror of course. 
We head back out into the main body of the fiord and are summoned by Dave to the bridge, he’s got some commentary to provide. We head across to Blanket Bay, and up to explore Hall Arm and make our way back to deep cove as we munch on warm scones with jam and cream. 
Among our conversation, Son relates the story of a dinner he had with some foodie colleagues in San Francisco one time. This restaurant was pretty extreme on the service level. Son shakes his head recalling it. We laugh as Dave points out that next time, when he goes out with those guys and they’re exchanging service level stories Son can impress them when he tells them about the waiter he had on Doubtful Sound who just jumped in the water and caught us a lobster for dinner! Haha. Too right!
We pack up and disembark when the time comes. We need to be back at West Arm for the 4.30 Real Journey’s trip back across Lake Manapouri. While Mandy and Dave unload the boat and put her back at her mooring. Richard, Mandy’s partner also gives a hand. He’s come over to sort out a problem with the van. We make a start on a walk along the road and once again we’ll be picked up by the van as it passes.
We pass the hostel and friendly greetings from a school group studying there, and have just enough time to make it to a beautiful lookout to another pretty waterfall before we're climbing back in the van for the rest of the trip over the pass. We laugh as Z and Son note that they each had to do a sort of double take at the lookout. We’ve become so accustomed to the water reflecting the forest, at first they assumed they were overlooking a lake!
We arrive back at West Arm in plenty of time. We 5 passengers find a table together on the boat and chat as we travel across the lake. This is a new boat only 18 months old and has wonderful big picture windows. Dave used to work for Real Journeys and has confirmed my impression that Real Journeys make a substantial investment in asset management. Their boats always look very schmick. As we near the end of the cruise, Son and Z exchange contact details. They’ll catch up if Son and his girlfriend end up in New York at the end of the year.
Back on solid ground, we say goodbye to Z and A. They’re heading for the return coach to Queenstown and then they head up to Rotorua. Joining the Doubtful Sound overnight from Queenstown has been easier than they expected, though it demanded an early start yesterday. Mandy gives us a lift back to Acheron Cottages. It’s getting dark now. It would have made sense to stay another night. We say our goodbyes and each head our separate ways, my head filled with schemes for how to get Daughter1 back on Doubtful for the fishing and maybe some diving.
So… in the wash up. I hear you wondering. What operator should you go with? Which trip is better. I went with Real Journeys on the Fiordland Navigator last time when I was here with my Mum, Sister and Daughter1. That has about 70 passengers. I think I’ve had phenomenal luck. The larger boat designed for enabling viewing through huge picture windows is handy in the storm, especially for the squeamish or those that due to age or infirmity can’t risk getting cold or whatever while viewing. Certainly it was ideal for my Mum in the wet. Yes, there’s a lot of people, but it’s a big boat and that’s not a problem. We never felt crowded. In the fine weather we’ve had this time, the smaller boat and the fishing is ideal.  The intimate party has been great too and we’ve enjoyed making new friends. Obviously you don’t get Lobster for dinner on the Real Journey’s trip either or blue cod.  Of course you can’t make your choice based on the weather because you don’t know that until the day.. look, do eeny meeny miny mo if you have to. Either trip is wonderful.
We toy with the idea of just staying in Manapouri another night given that we’d be setting out late, when ice risk is higher. However my companions are in favour of sticking the plan. Thankfully we’ve had a pretty good night’s sleep last night, so we get underway. I ring ahead to confirm with our accommodation in Arrowtown, no worries there. We have an uneventful drive in the dark. Driving in the dark is also not the ideal because you are missing the scenery, but at least we’re back tracking, so we’ve seen the great majority of this route the other day. Time over I would either get the coach down or stay another night in Fiordland.

In Arrowtown we’re staying at the Settler’s Cottage Motel. We check in and take our host’s recommendation of the Postmaster’s Residence for dinner, just a short walk away. As we’re entering a couple ahead of us comment that there’s a log fire here. Just what we need. There’s also several options for warming drinks. Son has a lemon, honey and ginger option and hubby tried a hot toddy. Our meals are very nice and the ambience is great too. Service is fine. A lovely end to a wonderful day.

Back to our cottage, where we are very comfortable. Another excellent TripAdvisor recommendation.