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. 

No comments: