Saturday, October 29, 2011

New Zealand Day 13 : Queenstown - Christchurch - KL

Day 13 : Sunday 18 September 2011 [stock lama giler.. dah sebulan lebih baru habis tulis.. punya lah pemalas update blog!]

I woke up early in the morning, still very tired from the Milford Sound trip the day before, but I sit down on the bed thinking.. ohh.. today will be our last day here in New Zealand. We will be flying off to KL early tomorrow morning. *sob*

We were supposed to check out from our motel in Queenstown at 10a.m, but Mr D did an early arrangement to allow us to check out a bit later. Our flight from Queenstown to Christchurch will depart at about 1:35p.m, so we didn't want to check out early.

Since we didn't even go to the lakeside ever since we step our foot in Queenstown, I pujuk Mr D to have some time by the lake side that morning. So we walked in between houses towards Lake Wakatipu. Along the way, we saw that cute "CAUTION cats crossing" sign at the junction of one of the roads.

Lake Wakatipu was so peaceful that morning, amidst the cold weather. We just sit down and admire the lake while having our usual chat, that's enough to occupy our morning. We returned to our motel at about 10:30a.m, and by 11a.m we were already in front of the motel waiting for the shuttle to go to airport.

Was a bit too early of course, but we didn't have choice since 11a.m was the maximum we allowed to delay our check out. So we still have plenty of time at the airport to do more souvenir shopping, and observing people [including one cute little southern american toddler who created mess at the airport hahahaha].

It was close to 3pm once we settled with our arrival at Christchurch airport. That includes searching for luggage storage [located just opposite Air Asia counter at departure hall], as our flight to KL will only depart after 12 midnight. We also rented another car on short term basis for us to kill the time before the night's flight. It was a pink Suzuki Alto, reminded me of my pinky at home.

Our first destination was An-Nur Mosque, located very near to Hagley Park. That's where we performed both our jama' zuhr / asr prayer and later that night for maghrib / isya' prayer as well. Was very glad to see the mosque still standing beautifully after many earthquakes. I got the chance to chat for a while with the sisters who joined the jama'ah, from Middle East and African countries and get to know how the Islamic community is around Canterbury.

We then went to Hagley Park, the huge open park located in the middle of the city. I've always wanted to wander around Christchurch, part of the reasons is to see how twin city of Christchurch, Canterbury, England looks like. I used to study in Canterbury, England, and heard so much about how similar this city is with its twin in New Zealand. Too bad I came to New Zealand post earthquakes era. Oh by the way, while other cities in England is famous for their football team, Canterbury in England is famous for rugby. So much of being twin city huh?

We walked by the Avon River, where the famous punting on the Avon activity is done. Due to time constraint, we didn't get to do this activity though. But walking around this area is so comfortably refreshing, especially when the weather is just nice in spring.

The Christchurch Botanic Garden is also located within the compound. This garden is dominated by various species of native plants found in New Zealand and other parts of the World, as well as many old trees which have been there for over 100 years. While walking through this garden, we met a Malaysian couple who have been staying here in New Zealand for a decade.

We walk around the park until maghrib, before heading to the mosque for prayer and head straight later to an Afghan restaurant at Lincoln Road for dinner. They have great selection of kebab and rice, and they have baklava too yayy!! But it wasn't as nice as the one I ate at Ocakbasi in the middle of Canterbury town (the one in England) years ago while I study there.

We used the night to do some chocolate shopping at Pak N Save, where I grab a loooooot of small packaged Whittakers, which I found tasted better than the big one, the peanut one especially because it is full of peanuts. It was already 10p.m by the time we reached the airport that night.. time to go back to KL. *Sigh*

*The End*

Saturday, October 22, 2011

New Zealand Day 12 : Milford Sound

Day 12 : Saturday, 17 September 2011
My day started early in the morning. We were scheduled to catch a bus from Queenstown to Milford Sound today, so it will be a whole day journey Queenstown - Milford Sound - Queenstown. I didn't order any lunch on board the boat, as I decided to cook nasi goreng for our lunch. So I woke up at 5:30am, cooked, get ready, ate breakfast and by 7:20am we were already in front of Copthorne Hotel waiting for the Great Sight bus which was scheduled to pick us up at 7:35am.

Mr D insisted on booking a bus instead of driving to Milford Sound, as he wanted to enjoy the scenery along the Fjordland without having to drive. We booked Great Sight bus coupled with Southern Discovery cruise at the price of NZD226 per pax. Turn out it was a great choice, as the bus driver, Dion, shared a lot of his knowledge about the places, history and Fiordland along the journey.

We reached Te Anau at about 10am, and was given some time to have coffee and loo break while picking up the other passengers from Te Anau. Can't remember the name of the cafe where we stopped at, but the souvenirs sold here is much cheaper than the one sold at DF Souvenir in Queenstown.

At the beginning of the journey, the scenery was just a normal New Zealand's beauty, it was only after we started to go through the National Park that the real beauty stands out. Dion kept on stressing that this is what he calls "world class scenery". This National Park is a World Heritage site and is home for Milford, Dusky and Doubtful Sound. Though it was drizzling that day, the view was still breathtaking.

Dion stopped by and let us enjoy the beautiful scenery, as and when we reached the beautiful spots. Mirror Lakes is one of them. The lake reflects its beautiful surrounding which includes Mount Cook and Mount Tasman, that's how it got its name. 

Going through the National Park in the 5-star Great Sight luxury coach was simply amazing, as the coach has glass roof top and huge glass window enabling us to view the scenery even without coming out from the coach.

We were there in early spring and were told that avalanche cases are common around this time of the year. There are times when the road to Milford Sound is closed due to this avalanches. Even along the way, we saw 3-4 minor avalanches which we can see from on board the coach, but it was minor enough it didn't warrant for any road closure.

The weather was quite dim that day, snow was falling lightly covering some places along the way. I was worry, thinking about how the weather will be while we are on board the cruise. I was hoping for it to be clear just so we can see the scenery better, but it didn't look like it will be then.

We also stopped by at The Chasm, a spot along Cleddau River where the water carves through the rocks creating amazing sculptures [which I failed to capture properly in the picture]. We had to walk about 10 minutes into the forest where we can see the beautiful sculptures at certain point. We can also meet this cute bird, the Kea bird, the large alpine parrot species. This Kea bird used to be killed because it is a threat to the sheep farming community as its diet includes carrion, but have received protection ever since 1986. Mr D was so interested with the curious Kea, that he spent some time approaching them.

We reached Milford Sound, or Piopiotahi in Maori, in time to board the 1hr 45minutes Scenic Cruise using Southern Discovery cruise. As soon as we board the cruise, buffet lunch was served and those who ordered their bento were given theirs and they started eating. So we quickly ate our nasi goreng because we didn't want to waste even a single moment while we were on board the cruise.

Milford Sound, or Piopiotahi, is dubbed the 8th wonder of the world. The weather was still dim, but we enjoyed it anyway. It was raining then, not surprisingly, as it rains 182 days in a year in Milford Sound, making it the wettest inhabited place in New Zealand. Though we had to fight with the rain, we decided not to continue sitting in the lounge but went up on the deck where the view was better. We prepared ourselves earlier by wearing waterproof winter cloth which we specifically wear in Milford. It was freezing though, with the wind and all.. but who cares!

The fjord was formed by the glaciers forcing through the land to form the U-shaped valley. There are a number of waterfalls around, and at times the captain simply brought the boat very near to the fall that whoever was outside will be wet with the water.

We also enjoyed the wild species of penguins and seals lazying around on top of the rocks. With our cheapo camera, Mr D tried very hard to capture the penguin live as that's what my stepdaughter requested.

Apart from the penguins and seals, we also enjoyed the smart dolphins who followed the boat along the way. The captain told us that the dolphin enjoyed the water flow created by the boat and often caught playing around. There were many of them swimming and jumping around, but it was so hard to capture using camera so we recorded the video instead.

The 1hr 45minutes scenic cruise was simply amazing. Though the weather was not at its best, we still enjoyed the journey. I will sure come again in 2012, insyaallah. This time I hope the weather will be better. It was quite a long and tiring journey, I was sleeping in the coach along the way home and Dion didn't shower us with a lot of knowledge the way he did on the way to go Milford, perhaps to give us time to rest. There is actually an option to fly back and enjoy the scenery from top, but it was so expensive we didn't continue with that. It would have been better if we can get that opportunity.. never mind.. next time.

Next : The final day...

Sunday, October 16, 2011

New Zealand Day 11 : Short Visit to Cromwell

Day 11 : 16 September 2011

We had a relaxing early morning that day, partly because our motel was back facing the Lake Wakatipu, so we were enjoying the morning breeze while having our breakfast. Breakfast that day was simple, just white bread, with fried bull-eye eggs, some sliced cucumber and onion caramalized with some chili sauce - all combined to form a complete sandwich.

Our plan that day was to take a short drive to Cromwell, as we didn't go through that route from Wanaka. It is located only around 50km from Queenstown, and we passed through Kawarau River where the famous 43m Kawarau Bridge bungy jump is located. I thought.. oh.. this one is not so bad as it is the lowest bungy jump among all.. so I jokingly asked Mr D whether I can jump. But Mr D gave me 'that' look so all I can do is watch those bunch of crazy people having fun jumping around *envy mode*.

We reached Cromwell quite early and head straight to The Mall area, where the town centre is. This is also where i-Site is located. The town is small, with some shops we can wander around. The famous fruit sculpture is also located nearby. We took some time to wander around the town before heading towards Lake Dunstan direction.

Our next destination was Juice Cafe located somewhere along State Highway 8B. This is where we can get that famous real fruit ice cream, where the vanilla ice cream block is blended together with the frozen fruits to form an ice cream. There are a number of fruits we can choose from, and we chose mixed berries ice cream. Yummy! Apart from the ice cream, we can also find some fresh fruits, dried fruits, honey and chutney here. Cromwell is the furthest town from sea in South Island, that provides suitability for its famous fruits orchards and vineyards. It was early spring when we were there, otherwise fruit picking can be an attraction.

We bought some cheap golden kiwis, Manuka honey and chutney and kept that in our car, before walking across the road towards Dunstan View, overlooking Lake Dunstan. It was nice sitting by the edge of the lake enjoying the scenery, while eating the ice cream amidst the cold weather. Lake Dunstan is a man-made lake, which was formed very recently in 1992-1993 after the construction of Clyde Dam.

It is at the bottom of this Lake Dunstan where the original Cromwell's business district lies. Some of the original historic buildings were moved to a higher location before Lake Dunstan was formed, but some are gone with the creation of the lake.

That's when the restoration of the Old Cromwell Town was started. The historic old buildings moved from its original location are restored here, and some which are gone are reconstructed. Out of curiosity we went to visit Old Cromwell Town, and can still see the reconstruction activities going on there.

It was quite amazing to think that some of the buildings seen there are the original buildings which were moved from its original location. That's how passionate they are towards preserving their historic sites. If, and only if, we Malaysians are as passionate in terms of preserving our beautiful culture.

It was already almost 2pm by the time we finished wandering around Old Cromwell Town. We were scheduled to return our rented car to Avis at 5pm in Queenstown, so we had to start our journey back to Queenstown.

On our way back to Queenstown, we dropped by at Jones' Fruit Stall. Mrs Jones' fruit farm is famous for its fruit picking activities. Too bad it was early spring, otherwise we might be able to do fruit picking. At Jones' Fruit Stall, it sells the fresh and dried fruits, bottled chutneys and honey. We bought some dried fruits, which is cheaper than what we can get in Malaysia.

Back in Queenstown, we had another couple of hours before we were due to return the car. We then had lunch at Nando's, where I had my usual quarter meal with corn. Only this time I didn't order extra hot. From my experience in Hamilton the other day, their extra hot somehow hotter than what we can get in Malaysia. Either it is really hotter, or my tongue adjusted its ability.

We then head to the city centre for another souvenir shopping activity. We head straight to DF Souvenirs to buy some small items like bag tags, key chains and other gift items for my staffs in office. I also bought some t-shirts for my son and nephews. I noticed the price of the adidas All Black jersey here is slightly more expensive than the one we bought in Taupo, so glad we bought that in Taupo.

We then head back to our motel to keep all the things we bought and perform jama' prayers, before returning our car. The procedure to return the car, again, was so simple. We just parked our rented car, return the contract and key, done! Then we walk around the city centre again, just observing the life in Queenstown.

As we didn't have our car anymore, we had to walk back to our motel, which is about 1km from the city centre. It wasn't far, but because we had to go through quite a steep hill, it's kind of challenging. Back in our motel, I did a round of laundry, and then prepared my 20-minutes meal which comprises of microwaved rice, prawn sambal and some raw salad. I purposely cooked extra rice, with the intention to cook nasi goreng the next morning for our 'bento' as we will have full day journey Queenstown-Milford Sound-Queenstown tomorrow.

Next : Enjoying the 8th wonder of the world.