18 & 19 October, 2013 – South Island Scenery

Travel to Queenstown via Christchurch and Mt. Cook

Up next we have another couple of relaxing travelling… during which I did nothing.  Granted, there was scenery to enjoy, but not a word read or written.  I didn’t even start writing up entries about the trip so far!  Sigh.  It was super pretty, though!  Shari seemed to doubt me when I said I planned to sail/train/bus it over two days from Wellington to Queenstown, instead of flying.  I assured her that I knew what I was doing.  That this bit of travelling was as much a part of the vacation as anything else.  As she researched those things a bit more, she seemed to understand where I was coming from.  It’s definitely worth the two day trek!  Fly?  Bah!

“They” say that the North Island is all about the culture (the Maori people settled here more than in the south), while the South Island is all about the scenery.  I agree.

I checked out of the hotel in Wellington and headed for the ferry.  There are two ferry terminals in Wellington.  One was within walking distance.  There other was not.  Guess which one I had to go to?  Yep, you got it.  I took a cab.  It was a very windy, cool day so I figured the three hour ferry trip to the South Island would not be enjoyable.  Thankfully, the boat was very smooth.

Cook Strait Panorama

I picked a spot by a window to sit and relax until we got underway and soon a couple sat next to me – a French Canadian couple that I had met very briefly on that trip to Rotorua!  We spent much of the ferry ride together, comparing notes and enjoying the scenery.  They were spending five weeks in the area (jerks) and I actually met up with them again in Melbourne, Australia.

As we neared the Marlbourough Sounds, and the South Island, we braved the wind and went outside to really enjoy the scenery.  It was well worth it!

The ferry travelled to Picton on the South Island and from there I caught a train to Christchurch.  The train had one open-sided car and I actually spent most of the five hour trip standing out there enjoying the scenery.  We travelled by one bunch (flock? herd?) of sheep.  Startled, the little lambs stood up on their wobbly legs and ‘yelled’ at us.  It was cute. :)

Some parts of Christchurch are still recovering from the 2010 earthquake.
Some parts of Christchurch are still recovering from the 2010 earthquake.

I arrived in Christchurch around 6:30 pm and got a cab to the hotel.  It was on the other side of town.  While it was handy for tomorrow’s coach departure, I did not enjoy the area.  The location sucked, there was nowhere to eat except for the sketchy hotel bar and a gas station (I chose the gas station) and it was not a safe feeling place.  Luckily I was just there to sleep.

The next morning I was up and at the bus stop for my 7 am bus tour to Queenstown via Mount Cook.  We had lots of wonderful scenic stops along the way: Gerladine, Fairlie Valley, Lake Tekapo (with a sheep dog tribute and the Chapel of the Good Shepherd), and Lake Pukaki.

There are sheep stations here up to 30-40, 000 acres in size and vineyards that go on for miles.  Not like our little valley vineyards, that’s for sure!

We stopped for lunch at Mount Cook.  This was beautiful!  I did, however, make the mistake of pre-purchasing lunch.  It was a wonderful four course lunch at the Hermitage Hotel.  Myself and another couple from the tour had the place to ourselves and it had a beautiful view but it took so long to eat lunch (and I rushed) that I didn’t have time to explore the area!  I managed to have 20 minutes before the bus left to rush up to a look off point.  I could definitely spend a day or more just here exploring the hiking trails!  Sir Edmund Hillary used this mountain to practice before going on to Everest and there is a monument to him at the resort.

Afternoon stops included Omarama and an orchard near Cromwell where I bought some mouthwatering local apples, strawberries and dried cherries to snack on during my stay in Queenstown.

The closer we got to Queenstown, the more it felt like entering Middle Earth!

I arrived at my beautiful hotel with enough time before the sun disappeared to orient myself, pick up some touristy brochures to plan out my time here and enjoy the view from my hotel room.  Queenstown was my time to relax.  There was so much I wanted to do in the area, but I allowed myself to play it by ear and wait until I was in town to decide what and when I wanted to do it.  I’d originally planned a cruise of Milford Sound but decided to save that for ‘next time’.

Wrap-Up

Impressions: My two days were not wasted.  I loved seeing all of the beautiful scenery!

Daily Casualties: None

Walked: not much.

The Rest of the story:

Aurora Announces her trip!
Aurora’s Australian Pre-planning
Working with a Travel Agent
My Trip Down Under:
– Day 123 – The Journey
– Day 4 – Auckland
– Day 5 – North Island Culture
– Day 6 – Rotorua
– Day 7 – Wellington
– Day 8 – Wellington
– Day 9 & 10 – South Island Scenery
Day 11 – Queenstown
Day 12 – Middle Earth
Day 13 – The Last Day
Day 14 – Great Barrier Reef
Day 15 – Alice Springs
Day 16, 17 & 18 – The Outback
Day 19, 20 and 21 – Melbourne and the Great Ocean Road
Days 22 to 25 – Sydney and the End
Down Under Assignments

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