Tere o te porohita – Ride of the Rings

On Wednesday, we had booked on a horse riding tour called the Ride of the Rings, but we were a bit worse for wear from our skiing adventure and were concerned about our ability to hold ourselves on a horse using our legs.

But we dragged ourselves out of the cosiness of our bed and caught the bus (or more correctly, busses) into town.   While we were waiting for the bus, at what turned out to be the incorrect bus stop which we had unnecessarily hiked up a hill to get to, we heard bleating.  After a while, we realised that it was little baby mountain goats.  Awwww.

In town, we did a little bit of souvenir shopping and had pizza for lunch.

Our horse riding tour began in Paradise, which is about 20 minutes drive from Glenorchy, which, in turn, is about 45 minutes drive from Queenstown.  So we had some time in the bus to get psyched up for our ride.

We also had time to stop for a quick photo on the road.

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No matter how many lake scenes I see in New Zealand, I still can’t get over the colour of the water.  Just beautiful!

We got kitted up with helmets, boots and Drizabones (unfortunately mine didn’t stay that way for long due to it’s length compared to my legs, which meant it dragged in the mud as I walked).   I shouldn’t complain.  At least this time I didn’t have to have a child’s helmet.  When I went skiing the day before, I had a Paul Frank helmet with a monkey skull and crossbones on it…  Definitely, too cool for school!

After we crossed a little creek named “River Jordan”, we found ourselves in Paradise, which is actually closer to Milford Sound than it is to Queenstown, except there’s a range in the way.  Paradise is an estate owned by a trust which has strict rules about what can be built there,  who can use it and what animals are allowed in.  Apparently, horses are okay.

We met our guide, Jaimie, who rated herself as a 9.5 out of 10 Lord of the Rings fan (she even used to work at Hobbiton).  I was only game to rate myself a 5, given that I haven’t spoke Elvish for years…

Jaimie assigned us horses based on where we were going to travel in the pack.  It’s all about the popularity.  The coolest horse (judged by the horse mob, not by the people) gets to go first.  So it went, Oscar, Presley, Court and then poor old Boris at the end.

Here’s Davey, in Paradise, waiting to alight his horse, Boris.

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And here’s Boris:

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Jaime originally assigned me to Court, but I had to swap with Caitlin, an American undergrad biologist, because my legs weren’t long enough for Court’s stirrups.  So I got an “upgrade” (from a pack point of view) to Presley.

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The scenery was amazing, as expected.  This is Mount Earnshaw, which can be seen in a lot of the skylines of the Lord of the Rings movies, playing the part of one of the Misty Mountains.

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The first LotR location was a bit of forest where some Lothlorien scenes were filmed, particularly where Gimli almost gets shot by an Elvish archer, because dwarves breathe so loud…

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Very close to this setting, was another where Aragorn “avenges?” Boromir’s death by decapitating an Uruk-hai.  I didn’t get a great shot of this one given my less then average horsewomaning skills, but Davey did and he even got a selfie.

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Jaimie also led us past some wilderness that had been used in The Lovely Bones (where the girl is meeting her spirit guide) and Wolverine (where Hugh Jackman is running through the countryside naked).

Jaime also told us some LotR trivia, such as the fact that Peter Jackson had to install plumbing and roads throughout the property as part of his conditions of use, and that he had to return all filming locations to exactly as he found them, including repositioning dead trees that he had moved.  And that the actor who played Aragorn not only bought his horse at the end of filming but paid for Arwen’s stunt double to have keep her’s too (which would have been about $60.000).

It was a very easy ride, with not too many steep bits.  It was very easy to get caught up with the beautiful landscape.

Here’s us enjoying it.

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As I mentioned before, Davey seems to have mastered the art of horseback photography much more than I have.  He was even stable enough to take a panorama:

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After going up a bit of a hill, we got a wonderful view of the Dart River, which is where Isengard was inserted via CGI as first a lovely forest and then as an Orc-ish wasteland/workshop.

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We also got to see this bit of wilderness where Boromir met his end, and where apparently a lot of footballers dressed as Uruk-hai twisted their ankles during filming.

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Apparently, there was a lot of accidental falling off horses when they were filming many of the scenes with the riders of Rohan.  But Peter Jackson still used all of that footage and just added arrows to provide a reason as to why the riders were falling from their horses.  Jaimie told us 70% of the actors playing riders of Rohan were actually women in muscle suits, so Eoywn wasn’t quite the only girl on the battle field.

This was a great tour!  The scenery was beautiful, Jaimie was practically an Elf herself and the horses were very well tempered.  But like all good things, it had to come to an end, which was at just about the time I realised that my toes had gone numb from the Glenorchy microclimate.

We gave the horses a bit of attention at the end for a job well done.

Me and Presley:

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Davey’s steed, Boris:

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Presley giving Davey a nuzzle and then trying to use him as a scratching post…

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Jaimie rode Oscar, who was aptly named, given that he was one of the horses of Rohan.  It is no wonder he was the leader of this pack, given his celebrity status.

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Here’s Davey getting up close and personal with the star:

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We had a warm milo at the stable and then were driven back to Queenstown.

Davey and I enjoyed our last Speight’s (at least for a while) at the Speight’s Ale House and then returned to the hotel, exhausted, for a sauna and sleep.

 

Te hukarere e noho i runga i toku ihu me te kamonga – Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes

At about 5.30am on Tuesday, Davey woke me to get ready for our day of skiing at Cardrona, which is about an hour from where we were staying.

We had breakfast and most importantly coffee, and then, armed with all of our skiing implements, which had been dropped off to the hotel’s ski locker the night before, we caught one bus to Frankton and then another to Cardrona, arriving just as the ski field opened.

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The reason that we had selected Cardrona over Coronet was that Fae, our slightly over the top iSite travel agent, told us that it had a better beginners area with less chance of being ploughed over by experienced skiers.  As far as I could tell, even with one of the slopes closed, it did seem like a well laid out facility.  And there were beautiful views.

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Wisely, we had signed up for lessons.  Our instructor was named Frederico and I was his worst pupil.  I was passable at attaching my skis to my boots, walking around with skis on, walking sideways with skis on, and propelling myself forwards, but I was pretty lousy at the “ski plough” which is the mechanism by which one stops skiing.  As a result, I ended up looking at the sky a lot after realising that while Frederico did keep his promise to catch me, he didn’t mean that we were actually going to stop moving (and in my case, falling).

Cardrona’s learners area has a very slight slope called The Learners’ Carpet, which has a conveyor belt (instead of a full on ski lift) for getting you to the top.  I skied down this two times successfully (under supervision) while it started to snow.  Not just snow on the ground, but in the air too.  Snow is not quite as romantic as it seems in movies when it is coupled with wind, but when you’re a child of the tropics, you still find it pretty exciting!

Our lesson ended, which meant it was lunch time.  I had a spectacular stack on my way from the end of the Learners’ Carpet to the lodge but was rescued by Davey and one of the other instructors so I made it to lunch, albeit it with much sorer knees.  Here’s me on our lunch break being cold due to snow and fog.

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While we waiting for our noodles to be cooked, the snow got heavier and heavier, almost blanking everything out.

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We defrosted a bit, ate our noodles and then went for a few more goes on the Learners’ Carpet.  I think I was getting a bit better with Davey’s encouragement.  Here’s a photo of me not falling over.

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And here’s Davey being a pro:

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Another thing about Cardrona that appealed to my geeky side, is that your ski pass card logs all of your data so at the end of the day you can see how much skiing you’ve accomplished.  I was feeling pretty chuffed by the end, completing 5 runs and travelling 85 vertical metres.

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We were feeling a bit broken by the afternoon, so although we had an hour before our bus left, we decided hot soup inside was the better choice.  I also had the feeling that I should quit while I was ahead (that is, I hadn’t broken any bones).

The ski field looked gorgeous as the sun set.

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We got to the bus early (unlike some of the other passengers who turned up 25 minutes late without even an apology to the driver) and got settled in for a nap.  Our bus driver, Mitchell, was incredibly talented and we thought were were going over the edge a few times, but it never happened.

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Davey was a bit cold on the bus and had a bit of a ninja vibe going.

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We arrived in Frankton just in time to catch the last connecting bus to the Hilton, which was incredible good luck!

Hot baths in our wonderfully spacious bathroom were the order of the day, and then we went down to the Wakatipu Grill, for their first night of service with their brand new menu.  There were about 10 chefs working, presumably to learn all how all the new dishes were to be presented and we had a little wait in the bar for a little while, next to the fire.

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It’s a hard life.

A sucker for advertising, I ordered a Wakatipu Winter Warmer, which is like an alcoholic hot chocolate, only better, which was the creation of our own bartender.

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Dinner was also amazing!  We had an entree of scallops and chorizo with wasabi sherbet, and then I had a sous vide rib eye.  There wasn’t even room for dessert!

Although I spent a portion of my day terrified, I did enjoy my skiing experience (and my après-ski) and expect that I could get better with some more practice so that I spend more time with snow flying past my face and less time with snow smacking against the back of my helmet.

Yes, I definitely think I could get used to this lifestyle!

 

Luge i te tihi o te ao – Luge at the top of the world

On Monday, we had a pretty slow start with a leisurely breakfast at the hotel and then watched an English reality show where the aim was to pit interior decorators (that can only buy one item to turn around a terribly decorated house) against each other.

It was a bit cooler this morning and the lake was a bit mistier than the day before.

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When we eventually found some motivation, we caught the water taxi into town.  This time, we got to sit at the back where you can actually see.  Davey was pretty excited, a little bit like a puppy who is allowed to stick its head out of a car window.

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It was a really lovely day and Davey thought that we might go fishing, but we realised that we would be able to get about 30 luge rides each for the cost of a fishing charter boat so we decided to head up to the Skyline instead.

We rode the Gondola up through a cutting in the forest, exposing imposing 100m trees, which have a bit of a prehistoric feel to them, like dinosaurs (or moas) might wander out at any time.

At our destination, it was even colder still.  In some areas of shade, there was still frost!

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First on the agenda at the top was to try out the luge (Davey is a luge veteran, but this was my first time).  The lockers were broken, so the first time, I went up by myself, while Davey minded the bags.  In order to get to the start of the luge, you have to go up on a chair lift, which it a little quicker than I was expecting, especially at the points where you get on and off.  I got a quick induction by the lovely pierced luge attendant and I was on my way!  The Scenic Track was lots of fun and not too challenging, with, as indicated by the name, some gorgeous scenery.  Unfortunately, I was a little bit distracted by how numb my glove-less hands were getting to enjoy the experience to its fullest.

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Davey went next so I took some photos of him on the chair lift (where he was swinging his legs with excited anticipation) and while tailgating the slower driver in front of him.

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For my second round, Davey came up with me.  Here’s some evidence (and the amazing views):

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The advanced track was even more exhilarating, with the ability to get “air” with your luge!

After this run, it was approaching 2pm, so definitely time for lunch.  (The position of the winter sun is quite deceiving.  It always looks like it’s early morning so you can’t tell when it’s lunchtime, especially when you’ve gotten used to eating leisurely hotel buffets mid morning.)

For lunch, we had a pleasantly surprisingly good curry with naan bread that was cooked to order in a brick oven at the buffet.

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I sat in the cafe and contemplated the view (and judged the girl next to me who was seemingly so unimpressed with the view that she had to watch videos on her iPad) while Davey took another 5 runs on the luge.

 

The Skyline appears to be sponsored by a jelly bean company and there was lots of jelly bean art (that is, art made of actual jelly beans), like this one of Frodo and the one ring:

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We caught the water taxi back to the Hilton and attempted to get some more relaxing in to our leisurely day by sitting in the hot tub.  Unfortunately, we didn’t get quite as much relaxation as we had hoped after being interrupted by an inadequately-supervised boy who insisted on interrogating us about my family history and then splashing us when he didn’t get the answers he wanted.  It was okay in the end, Davey sorted him out by threatening to tell on him to his mother, much to the approval of the other adults in the vicinity.

After our soak, we had some dinner at the on-site pub.  As always, when you order seafood, even when it’s just plain ole pub fish and chips, you get an amazing piece of fresh fish.  And it wasn’t just the mulled cider influencing my appreciation – it was good!

After a couple more mulled ciders by the fire in the pub, it was time to go back to the fire in our own room for a nice warm sleep (and for Davey to dream of being a luging champion).

Huritau i roto i te Queenstown – Birthday in Queenstown

On the morning of my birthday, I was greeted with a lovely view from our hotel room.

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We had a buffet breakfast in the sun room of the Wakatipu Grill and then drove in to Queenstown to run some errands.

While we were there, Davey made a new friend.

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He wasn’t the only one enamoured with this particular canine, other people in the street were looking at him and one woman in a car almost stopped so she could see the dog!

In the afternoon, I was spoilt at the day spa attached to our hotel. Even the waiting room and the locker room was luxurious! I was given a choice of massage oil – one that smelt like massage oil, one that smelt like Clag glue, and one that didn’t smell like anything. (I went with the massage oil.) After my massage and facial, I felt so relaxed and my face felt so hydrated!

In the evening, after finding out that the posh restaurant at the hotel was closed on a Sunday, we caught a water taxi into town.

While we were waiting for the taxi, we saw lots of ducks, foraging for grass in the crystal clear water. Here’s one of the more interesting ones.

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We took a few more photos too.
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When we disembarked in Queenstown, there was a big band playing Cole Porter songs on a stage which was constructed over the water. Queenstown is currently celebrating its Winter Festival so there was lots of stalls around and social media opportunities:

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We stopped in at the Boiler Room, which is next to the Ice Bar, and is the complete opposite in atmosphere – warm, welcoming and slightly vintage, with mulled wine instead of vodka in ice cube glasses.

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There were some very “jolly” ladies in the Boiler Room and they requested Beyonce’s “All the Single Ladies”, which I always think of as “All the Signalling Ladies”, and danced the full routine for the duration of the song. Awesome.

For dinner, we went to a restaurant on the waterfront called Ivy and Lola’s which is also warm and a little bit vintage. I had an amazing dinner of mussels (for entree) and then pork belly, which was such a generous helping that I couldn’t get through it all.

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We misread the water taxi timetable when we left the warmth of the restaurant, so we wandered around the shops for a little while before going home.

There were so many stars out that I thought it worth taking a photo of the view:

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What a lovely way to end the evening!

Roiroi hoki te koura – Panning for gold

On Saturday morning, we began our drive from Dunedin to Queenstown. We had a quick stop in Milton for a Subway and journeyed deeper into Central Otago. There were lots of clouds, hills, rock formations and sheep.

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Near Cromwell, we stopped to look at a hydro dam which had the capacity to supply power for Christchurch and Dunedin annually.

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Then we drove along the lake created by the dam for quite a while, admiring the wonderful blue water and occasional odd rock formation.

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Davey, with his eagle eyes for mining-related infrastructure, spotted the Goldfields Mining Centre from the road, so we stopped in for a look.

We did a portion of the tour self-guided where we wandered past some mining equipment and then a little cluster of huts called “Chinatown”.

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We then met up with a guide who gave us a bit of a lecture about the history of gold mining in the area, which was known as Gee’s Flat. She also showed us some actual gold!

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The highlight of the day, especially for Davey, was when the stamper battery was turned on by supplying water to it. It’s amazing how much power something can have just from a bit of water being up higher!

We also got to see some sluice guns, another example of the power of water being harnessed.

Our guide then gave us a demonstration of how to pan for gold and we were allowed to pan for as much gold as we wanted for the rest of the day.

It was really hard work and my hands were frozen by the end. However, Davey and I both did still have our lead indicators at the end of our panning which is supposed to indicate that we would still had our gold in our pan, if there was some, which is, I guess, a partial win…

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Davey was also very excited to see a hydro generator.

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After a little more of a drive, during which Davey let me play The Lord of the Rings soundtrack over the car stereo to increase the epic-ness of the journey, we arrived at the Hilton at Kawarau village, just outside of Queenstown, which was to be our home for the next 5 nights.

We were made very welcome at the Hilton. The majority of the staff have French accents (possibly Swiss?) and it’s almost like being in Europe. Our room was incredibly luxurious and had a lake view and a gas fireplace.

In the evening, we went to the onsite pub who were offering mulled cider as a winter special. It was warm and sweet and just a touch spicy – the closest to Butterbeer that a muggle can get.

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It was a great end to our hard day of “mining”.

Ra i roto i te matao Ōtepoti – A cold day in Dunedin

This morning, we returned to our favourite breakfast place in Dunedin, the Good Earth cafe, which is opposite the university. It’s a really welcoming, organic sort of place, the type of place where they make all their own relishes…

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It was actually so cold this morning that the windows in the cafe had fogged up. Every time I come here, I get the smoked salmon bagel, but I resisted this morning so that I wouldn’t have had the same thing for breakfast three days in a row.

We went for a walk into town, lazily looking at shops and then stopped for some tea at a very cosy bar near the Octogon, which had a very warm fireplace.

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After our tea break, we walked up a hill to visit Olveston House, the family home of the Theomins from 1906 when the milionaire David Theomin built it for his wife and two children (the youngest was 17 at the time) to 1966 when the youngest daughter, Miss Dorothy, bequeathed the house to the city of Dunedin, not having had any children herself.

We booked in for a tour and, as instructed by the gift shop attendant, had a wee walk through the gardens (and took some photos) until our tour guide was ready for us. The most interesting thing in the gardens was a 1926 Fiat which had actually been “misplaced” on the grounds for years and years until it was restored in 1996.

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Photographs weren’t allowed inside the house so the photos of the interior of the house are from the house’s website.

The first stop on the tour was the kitchen, which was a very light room on the ground floor, with big windows and untreated kauri benchtops and tables. Apparently, today in New Zealand, table tops like this would cost a fortune, but in Edwardian times, they were only considered suitable for the servants, with the wood surfaces for the family made of imported English Oak. There were all sorts of exciting kitchen implements like a hand-cranked bean slicer and a dough forcer for creating patterns on pastry. There was also a cast iron cooker, imported from London, that looked brand new. Our tour guide, Emma, explained that their house keeper had just done a thorough clean of the place, including the kauri table tops, which would have been scrubbed with sand, a pinch of flour and some soap.

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The next room was the scullery, where the vegetables were prepared. Outside, in the gardens, I had noticed a random door bell that didn’t lead anywhere. It turned out that it led to the window where the kitchen staff would accept food deliveries from delivery boys through the window, instead of letting them in the house. There were also two types of sinks, one copper, for washing delicate crockery and one porcelain, for items that needed less care. The room was full of labeled contains for spices and other consumables like 10L contains for sago and tapioca. Also, there was a large jar of mace, which seemed threatening…

The scullery led to the meat safe and also had a window to the butler’s pantry, where the butler could inspect the food before it was served. One of my fellow tourmates incorrectly commented that this would be where Mr Bates would be. Noob. Fancy getting a mere valet like Bates mixed up with a mighty butler like Mr Carson. The Butler’s pantry contained lots of different crockery sets and an imported walk in safe that was used to house the silver. There was also a kauri linen press for getting prefect creases in napkins.

We returned to the servant’s hallway, which was decorated like a metro station, with all white tiles. There were a lot of mod cons in these premises – internal telephones, and electric servants’ bells which were wired throughout the house and flashed up the name of the room which had rung.

We bypassed the servant’s hall, which is now used as the staffroom for the current staff of the house and began the “upstairs” part of the tour, which was still actually on the ground floor.

The first family room we saw was the library, which was originally a breakfast room. It had leather wall paper and was full of an eclectic collection of artworks, many Japanese. The master of the house had been an importer of fine goods and had travelled widely, so the abundance of Japanese art and ceramics wasn’t surprising.

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There was a great leather chair, which actually looked a little like a dentist chair which had a special book holding tray, because reading all of those books would have been hard work.

We moved on to the dining room, which had a bay window with central heating hidden under the window seats. The dining table was set with an arsenal of cutlery, including asparagus tongs and a curved, kidney shaped dish which was used for scraps like bones, tails and skin you didn’t want to eat. Each of the 35 fireplaces in the house is slightly different. The one in the library was the only one which was made of copper.

The windows were painted very delicately with gold and black pictures of musical instruments and performers. A small round breakfast table was set up in the curve of the bay window, but this would have been removed during dinner parties, where the long table would have been extended to accommodate all the guests.

We passed through the great hall to the main entrance. When you would have visited the Theomins, you would have rung the bell from outside and be greeted by the butler who would have shown you to the cloak and wash room, where you could make yourself presentable enough to meet the family.

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You would then ring for the butler again who would collect you to announce your arrival. While you waited, you would be able to enjoy (or be intimidated by) the Japanese armoury, a twist on the traditional armoury you’d find in a great English house, containing two authentic samarai long swords, one with a completely carved ivory case, and 6 shorter Japanese swords.

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We went through to the drawing room, which had a distinctly feminine feel with doilies on the chairs and heaps and heaps of trinkets. Davey saw me enjoying this room and commented that I was born in the wrong century, with too small a house. Although I did appreciate all the furnishings in this room, the best thing by far was that due to a clause in Miss Dorothy’s will, as a visitor to the house who had received piano lessons, I was allowed to play the original Steinway grand piano! I was a little bit rusty and had to play The Rainbow Connection, because I didn’t feel confident enough playing anything else from memory without practicing first, but it was so exciting. Emma said that many people are too embarrassed to play in front of the other people in the group so I was really glad that I agreed to do it.

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We withdrew from the drawing room back into the great hall. We didn’t look at the hall the first time we walked through because there was a group of children who were being trained to be guides of the house. Possibly another initiative to do with Miss Dorothy’s will and her intention to share the house.

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We ascended the staircase to visit Miss Dorothy’s sitting room, which was a delicate baby blue room with a little fireplace and a balcony. By all accounts Miss Dorothy was quite a character, a mountaineer, artist, music lover and throughly modern independent woman. During restoration, an attempt was made to recreate and furnish all the rooms as if it were about 1910. The way they did this was to look at photographs of the house from that time and recreate carpets and furniture from that era. For the wall paper, which was quite unusual with a pattern of ribbons around the edges, they peeled back the original paper until they found it, scanned it and had it recreated. Miss Dorothy’s teenage bedroom was quite plain, with a single brass bed and another lovely little fireplace with blue ceramic tiles.

The next bedroom on the landing belonged to the eldest son, Edward. Emma started off by telling us that he didn’t get to live here very long. I spotted the photo of him as a sergeant in the Great War and though the worst, but he wasn’t killed during that conflict, but died later in his forties, married to an English girl he met during the war but childless. The reason he didn’t get to live here very long, was that he moved into a house at number 8 on the same street (Ovelston is number 42). Aside from photographs, there was also some patriotic war art, a work called Jock and Jaques, showing a Scotsman and a Belgian fighting alongside each other.

We passed by a very modern bathroom, with an inside toilet, shower and bathtub with heated towel rack (apparently the house got electricity 2 years before the rest of the city did!).

There were two more family rooms on this floor, the master’s dressing room and the master bedroom, which had two separate single beds. I would have though that if you were going to be sleeping in separate beds, there would be one bed in each dressing room, but maybe that’s just how it was done at Downton Abbey…

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We existed the first floor, via the servants’ staircase, passing the rooms occupied by Miss Dorothy’s governess and later secretary. Emma told us that the female servants slept upstairs but that the male servants weren’t allowed to sleep in the house. Even now there are four female curators, Emma included, who live at the property in the upstairs servants’ rooms.

We bought a souvenir in the giftshop which was a little pamphlet containing 100 year old recipes reproduced from the original cook’s cook book! Can’t wait to try them when I get home!

We walked back towards the Octagon and decided to stop in at the Speight’s Ale House, next to the brewery for some lunch. It was about 3pm by this time so we didn’t manage to get a proper lunch, but I did find some Speight’s Alcoholic Ginger Beer which might be my new favourite! (Sorry Speight’s Apple Cider…)

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In the evening, we had some very reasonably priced Chinese food from a place called Chopsticks 101 and then scared ourselves by watching American Horror Story in our creaky hotel room which rattled in the wind.

Toka, me te repo – Boulders and The Bog

I woke up quite gradually on Thursday morning but Davey was keen to get going, so while I was pottering around getting ready, he did a bakery run and returned with a smoked salmon bagel for me. I’m still getting over how common salmon is here. I think there has only been one day where I haven’t eaten salmon of some kind and this was the second day in a row I had a smoked salmon bagel for breakfast.

We took the second coastal route (which goes inland first through Omarama and then on to the coast). We saw similarly spectacular views:

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We also came across a hydro electric dam at Waitaki, which had gothic style windows like something out of The Great Gatsby.

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As we were driving, we also encountered an area of cultural significance where there were some Maori rock paintings depicting European colonisation.

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And there was some random weaving…
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We stopped for lunch, quite unintentionally at the Moeraki Boulders. These are a natural phenomena that occur through a process called concretion where, essentially, hard rock forms around shells and then cracks and fills with crystally stuff and then gets exposed by the erosion of the softer rock around it. That’s a pretty poor explanation but if you are a geologist then you should already know, and if you’re not, you might not know any better…

We had some fish for lunch at the restaurant, who’s seafood menu is so fresh, they write a new menu every day on a piece of giant rolling brown paper.

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After some wonderfully fresh blue cod, we wandered down to the beach to see the boulders.

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There was even a boulder that had a World Cup feel…

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The weather was a lot finer than the last time we drove along the Otago coast but it was incredibly windy – Davey commented that he could feel the car being blown around while driving.

We had a pint of ice cream that we had bought in Lake Tekapo which we had just packed in the back of the car, intending to re-freeze it when we got to Dunedin. Re-freezing wasn’t necessary. It was still perfect when we unpacked it after 4 hours in the car.

By the time we checked into our hotel in Dunedin, not unlike the ice cream we were freezing. And then it started to rain. This is the view from our hotel room.

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We weren’t blessed with a gas fireplace this time, so we had to crank the heater and get in bed, even though it was still 3 in the afternoon. We took this opportunity to watch The Lego Movie, which I hadn’t seen before. (I felt particularly nostalgic after seeing the blue 1980s spaceman character, who was the first lego set that I had ever played with as a child of the 1980s.)

We then ventured out to The Bog, which is an excellent pub, for a number of reasons:

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1. It is an Irish pub, serving beer which has been brewed the same way at the same premises longer than the age of my country.

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2. They play the Corrs.
3. There is a fireplace right by the door:

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4. You can come back after a year and a half and still get the same seat.
5. There are two types of potato, plus kumara (NZ sweet potato) with your roast:

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6. They have Speight’s cider on tap (which is not unusual for a South Island pub, but something that makes it better than everywhere else I frequent in Brisbane.)

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7. They have Barry’s tea behind the counter for both customers and bar staff.

8. It is a really short walk to our hotel but just enough distance that you are in the cold for long enough to make you appreciate the fire.

When we returned from The Bog, after walking in the drizzle, we settled in to watch Frozen (which I had also never seen before). I’m not sure if it was an appropriate choice given the weather or if it made me feel colder than I otherwise would have been, but I feel asleep with the addictive Disney songs reverberating in my brain and the howling wind reverberating our walls.

Kake atu i te maunga – Up the mountain

The sun rises quite late here during winter. This morning’s sunrise was at about 10 past 8, and we were awake to see it, at the base of Mt John ready for our hike.

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While watching the sunrise, Davey boiled up some water on his portable camping stove (which looks a little bit like a robot spider) and we had a cup-a-soup for a pre-hike breakfast.

I am not an outdoors person. Neither am I a mountain goat. I have short legs and get asthma in cold weather. I am not the ideal candidate for hiking at all, let alone 322m vertically over 2300m horizontally (average gradient of 14%) in 4ºC.

The gradient at the start of the hiking track was something like 20%. I realised about 5 steps in that I had made a grave overestimation of my abilities. My lungs started to burn with cold almost immediately and my heart was racing with a combination of over exertion and panic about how slippery the track was and how steep the fall would be. I wondered why I did this? And then I got my answer when we approached a clearing and saw the pink and blue streaks of sunrise in the sky.

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As we ascended, there were some other lovely views to see.

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And we added some rocks to the pile to signify that we’d been past.

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As we approached the top, the forest cleared to grasslands and the inclined path transformed into a stairway.

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When we arrived at the summit, we had planned to stop at the Observatory Cafe for a hot drink and a second breakfast. Unfortunately, we were half an hour early. I took some photos to kill time and then we had a sit down out of the wind.

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After we’d been waiting for a little while, a cloud descended upon us, completely changing the view (and climate) in minutes.

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Finally, the cafe opened and we got some hot drinks and bagels to sustain us. We were very reluctant to leave the warmth of the cafe, but eventually, we had to begin our descent.

The way down was so much easier. I love gravity! Davey warns me that I won’t love my thighs tomorrow though, but so far they’re okay…

The view was much the same as the way up but we did see a bunny on the way down.

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It took just over an hour to make our ascent and about 40 minutes to get back down again.

This was where my gps says we went:

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And this is a less flat view of our journey:

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It was great to do something that was out of my comfort zone on my holidays. And I think Davey enjoyed the company, at least on the way down, where I wasn’t as painfully slow.

After our exertions we went for a little excursion to the hydro dam where Davey explained that my interpretation of how hydro power worked (which was gained from Sim City 2000) had been wrong for decades.

Davey was mesmerised by the infrastructure but I was more excited by finding that the water was an unreal turquoise colour in the channel.

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We had a lazy afternoon in our villa and then wandered down to the tavern for a roast lamb dinner, which I thought was an excellent was to reward ourselves for our hiking effort and a great way to spend our last night in Lake Tekapo.

P.S. I forgot to add that we saw our sneaky feline friend again today. This time he had managed to sneak into someone’s room to take a nap on the bed.

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He also walked us back to our villa after we went out for dinner. It was so tempting to let him in for a cuddle, but I resisted.

Ngāwhā puna – Hot springs

Overnight, fog had rolled in. In fact, while I was watching Mt St John from our window while Davey cooked breakfast, the fog actually moved lower and lower.

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After breakfast, we went to Tekapo Springs, where there is also an ice skating rink. At one point in my life, I believe that I could ice skate. But that was a long time ago, possibly coinciding with the over-inflated ego I possessed in my tween years. Today, Davey described my face while “ice skating” as a look of sheer terror.

Here’s some evidence:

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There were actually ways of cheating at ice skating, but you had to rent them. I posed with this one which was one rented by a little French girl who was practically pirouetting and hardly needed it.
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Davey had a few rounds unimpeded by me to show off all his mad skillz.
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I did actually start to get a bit better at the end after realising it’s easier to balance when looking forwards rather than at the ice… However, I decided to quit while I was ahead (and unbroken).

There are 3 temperatures of hot springs at Tekapo, 36º, 38º and 40º (there’s also an 8º plunge pool, but I wasn’t feeling that in need of “refreshment”). We started off with the 36º and then worked up to the 40º. I found that in the 40º, my toes were going numb from being too hot, so decided that the 38º was the Goldilocks one (not too hot, not too cold, but just right).

It was really strange to be sitting outside, in hot, steaming water, looking at snowy mountains and pine trees. The fog had cleared by this time so it was this sort of view:

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I can’t believe how relaxed I felt afterwards. My whole body felt like it had just had a massage but without any of the pain usually associated with deep tissue torture.

We went for a drive in the afternoon, stopping at the Church of the Good Shepherd, and then continuing to the north, just to see how far up the mountains we could get. This is were we got to before the road ended.

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Predictably, the scenery was just amazing. Impressive mountains, shining water, magical clouds and crazy sheep. Here’s a selection:

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There were also some wooly cows, in various moods:

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In the evening, Davey cooked an amazing pasta dinner while I did some laundry and made friends with the affectionate resident cat who followed me backward and forwards from the laundry, and tried to join us inside our villa for dinner.

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Weather permitting, we are intending on going for a bit of a hike tomorrow, so I better get a head start on my evening’s sleep. So, pō mārie – good night!

Te puku mai i Akaroa ki Tekapo Roto – The drive from Akaroa to Lake Tekapo

This morning we said goodbye to Akaroa and began our scenic drive to Lake Tekapo.

There were a few new friends we had to farewell first, though.

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(There was also a really really loud cow who kept mooing all the time, her moos echoing over the whole city. We could even hear her when sitting at the end of the pier and inside our insulated cottage.)

And some scenery to marvel at:

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It was a more overcast day today and there was a magical sunset effect over the snow-capped mountains and a lot of really menacing looking clouds on our journey.

This was our route:

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And this was what we saw on the way:

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The scenery was so spectacular that I didn’t even fall asleep once today as I normally do as the passenger in a car for longer than half an hour.

A lot of these photos were just taken while we were in motion so sometimes the framing is a bit hit and miss (you can see one photo above where I’m actually in the photo still). My favourite, randomly framed photo was this one where I have managed to capture the amazing mountain view and a silhouette of a signal post.

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We stopped at Salmon World for lunch but the actual world part was closed and only the cafe and giftshop were open. But that didn’t stop me from getting a photo with the big salmon.

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We had some warm, comforting food for lunch in the form of a salmon pizza and some sour cream with a side of nachos.

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At around 3pm we arrived in Lake Tekapo.

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Growing up in North Queensland, I don’t have a great appreciation for changing landscapes with different seasons, but I think I do now. Tekapo is such a different place in Winter compared to when we last visited in Summer.

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We stopped in at the tavern while we sicced our champion travel agent, Jason, on some poor unfortunates who had booked us at the wrong accommodation. This gave us some time to enjoy some Speight’s by a log fire.

Jason worked his magic and we were able to check in to our palatial apartment with fantastic mountain views:

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I relaxed in a toasty warm bath in the massive bathtub and then we walked down to the resort restaurant for dinner.

We ordered a platter showcasing local produce, featuring venison, smoked salmon, pork salami, venison salami, blue cheese, grapes, honey roasted walnuts and beetroot relish, amongst other treats.

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Speaking of amazing local produce, this is the swede that we bought to make soup two nights ago. It is the size of a toddler’s head and had a delightful creamy texture which the midget swedes found in Australia just don’t have.

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So in summary, both New Zealand scenery and food gets a big tick of approval. Now it’s time to curl up with the heater on for a long sleep to dream of snow.

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