11/12 December 2016
11.12.2016 - 12.12.2016 14 °C
Queenstown - Monday 12 December
Skydive fail ☹️ Conditions against us, although it seems a reasonable day - too windy for the activity, so all jumps cancelled today. We have rescheduled for 0630 tomorrow, as our flight back to Auckland is not until 1255. The whole process from briefing etc is approx 3.5 hours, so at least we have time for a second bite at the cherry. Quite disappointed right now 😔
Smooth transition day yesterday. Packed up in the morning. Drove the short distance to Manapouri - much smaller than Te Anau, but also very pleasant - from where the ferry leaves for Doubtful Sound cruises and realised it is actually 'easier' to access than Milford Sound. Only an hour to cross the lake , then 40mins transfer on a purpose built road to the Sound. Far fewer passengers and boats on a much larger expanse of water; but also generally a much more expensive option - it is possible to see Milford quite cheaply; not so Doubtful - which was named from Captain Cook being doubtful there would be sufficient wind to sail back out of the sound if the ship ventured in. Cook bears such a lot of responsibility, good and/or bad, depending on perspective, but I love some of the stories behind names.
Easy 2 hr run back to Queenstown to our town-centre hotel to drop off luggage before returning the motorhome. Seeing the clean ones waiting to go out, ours certainly looked like it had been travelling for 3 weeks and over 4000km...
Another note for anyone thinking of hiring a motorhome in NZ - diesel is less used here and seems much cheaper than petrol, as there is no tax applied. Instead there is a Road User Charge of approx $6.50 per 100km, in the case of a hired vehicle payable on return. It was only pointed out to us at the last moment that the Express Return Package for $299 means no requirement to refill the fuel and LPG, empty the toilet and waste-water, nor wait around to hand back the vehicle, but also includes the RUC, so it was well worth it for me with at least $260 for that alone. While mentioning diesel, the price varies widely - up to 40% dearer in more remote areas, which means much of South Island. Some garages automatically discount by as much as 10c per litre if your spend is over $40; many supermarkets issue widely-accepted vouchers for 6c off per litre. I paid as little as 93c/litre and a high of $1.38.
Queenstown is a year-round 'buzzing"town and generally the favourite place of younger travellers. It is "backpacker-central", totally geared around activities and socialising - lots of travel and ticket agents, bars and food-outlets of every sort, late-opening gift and designer shops. There's plenty to do for all ages, unfortunately much of it at quite high cost, and lots to like about it, although it's expensive to stay or live here. Attractive location on northern shore of Lake Wakatipu, the longest and third largest lake in the country, and right next to the Remarkables mountain-range, thus great scenery. Significant young British population - certainly most shop and cafe staff. We've had plenty of time to wander around, especially with the failure of our skydive, so it will be the NZ town I know best by the time we leave tomorrow. Tom has introduced to me to the legendary Fergburger (Five Guys eat your heart out) with Mrs Ferg's bakery and excellent ice cream parlour next door; also to Pita Pit - like a healthier Subway. Far too many enticing food options here!
So, nearing the end of my tour, I'm happy to know I've travelled much of Northland and Eastland on North Island and Westland and Southland on South Island. It is not difficult to see the attraction to the British over the years - recognisable but more dramatic scenery and a familiar but better climate. Having been fortunate to have travelled quite widely in general, I haven't found it quite as "Wow round every corner" as is often suggested - indeed there are some long stretches and large areas of nothingness - but to quote Lonely Planet (thanks for the well-used guidebook and map, Elaine 😊), "it is one of the most varied and spectacular landscapes in the world...with a diversity of landforms you would expect to find across an entire continent rather than a small archipelago in the South Pacific". I've had a wonderful nearly-a-month and know I will enjoy the last few days back in Auckland with Tom and Jess and their special final treat of a two-night stay in a "bach" (holiday-house) on Waiheke, a smallish island in the Hauraki Gulf, just a 35 minute ferry ride NE from the city, a now-wealthy, "grown-up hippy", wine-making community - wine-tasting tour booked!
A few interesting statistics:
If New Zealand were 100 people, 69 would be European, 14 Maori, 9 Asian, 7 Pacific Islanders, 1 other.
Population of 4.5million. Where they live: 63% North Island, 20% South Island, 10% Australia, 5% Rest of the World, 2% Travelling.
Similarity in neighbour-relationship: New Zealand generally want Australia to lose in sport, just as Scotland generally want England to lose, although England more likely to root for Scotland than Australia for NZ!
And finally, possums were introduced from Australia for fur and are now the most destructive mammal-pest, 70 million chewing their way through millions of tons of foliage a year - and pretty much the only road-kill I have seen, but lots and lots of them.
Fingers crossed for our early morning tomorrow.