May 2nd, 2016

Cycle Central Otago Rail Trail

Most people staying in the historical town of Clyde have one thing on their minds – cycling the 4-day Otago Rail Trail, starting near Clyde and finishing in Middlemarch.

Otago Rail Trail Map

For a satisfying ‘taster’ we did a one-day cycle ride from Auripo to Chatto Creek (30kms). Here we are, ready to start with the Autumn sun on our backs.

Central Otago cycling begins

Big thumbs up to the boys at Bike it Now in Clyde. Duncan and his team operate a fantastic bike hire service and leave nothing to chance. Pete, one of the team, drove us 50kms to Auripo and we stopped for photos along the way, including the oldest operating Post Office in New Zealand since 1886!

Central Otage Post Office

Pete dropped us off at Auripo and arranged to collect us at Chatto Creek. With Michael leading the way, we set off.  The only downside is that Central Otago scenery demands constant attention and we had to discipline ourselves not to stop every 5 mins for a photo.

Cycle Trail Michael

March, April and May are perfect months for cycling in this region. (Clyde can be very hot in the summer!) The bridges on the trail may be old, but they’re incredibly sturdy. Bit bumpy going over, but that’s half the fun of it.

Central Otago bridge

There were a few tunnels to navigate and once a third of the way in, you’re plunged into impenetrable darkness. Cyclists are advised to walk their bikes through, however, our bikes were equipped with torches. Problem solved.

Central Otago tunnel

At this stage of the journey, with helmet at a rakish angle, I’m having a blast. Haven’t biked for months but this seat is so comfy. I have energy to spare. Hang on, where’s Michael?

Central railtrail silence

I might have known, always seeking out a quiet moment. Think I’ll surge ahead and leave that boy in my dust!

Central Otago Clycling2

The trails are wide and pretty easy but in a couple of parts the gradient becomes steeper and slightly more challenging. Having forgotten the golden rule about hydrating, I’m thirsty. Yay, our first coffee stop is in sight!

Stationside cafe

Beautiful scones, muffins and slices are sold at the Stationside Cafe. You really have to rest stop here for a while. There’s great camaraderie with other cyclists, strongly represented by the very fit 50+ generation. Here’s one of them.

Stationside Cafe2

Now fully revived I scoff at the very idea that I was originally offered an electric bike by the Bike-it-Now team. The nerve of those guys!

Otago Rail Trail Pam

It’s not just scenery you see on the way. Farmers and their working dogs are out tending to their stock. This is such a great way to see the ‘heartland’.

Central Otago cycle trail

Can you believe this – a random apple tree growing on the trail. Back in the day, people would throw their apple cores out of the train and one took seed. Another refreshment stop. How good is my life getting!

Otago Cycle Trail apples

One newly made apple core later, It’s back on the saddle and onwards to Chatto Creek. This is a great place to have a sit-down lunch or simply relax with a well earned drink.

Chatto Creek Cafe

Duncan is right on time to collect us. It’s over too soon but on the upside we’ll be back for the full trail experience next year! In the short term, it’s back to Clyde for our 2-night stay at the unique Olivers Lodge, a destination in itself.

Central Otago railtrail sign

Happy travelling

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April 27th, 2016

Te Anau & Milford Sound Accommodation

From November to March, Te Anau it’s heavily booked, but if you plan ahead, this is the ideal base for walking the Kepler Track and visiting Milford or Doubtful Sound. We recently stayed in the Te Anau Lakeview Kiwi Holiday Park & Marakura motels. The motels are well equipped and have great views across Lake Te Anau, the South Island’s largest lake.

Te Anau Lakeview Marakura Motels

You’ll be well away from the campers and backpackers and don’t let the close proximity to the road put you off. By 6.00 pm, the traffic is scarce until the following morning. The lake can change during the day from total mirror calm to choppy seas. Watching the sun go down is a great end to the day…

Lake Te Anau sunset

….before enjoying a great sleep in a comfy bed.

Te Anau Marakura Suite

For a differently priced level of accommodation and comfort in Te Anau, we enjoyed a 3-night stay at Dock Bay Lodge, a beautiful rural and boutique experience, just 6 kms out of Te Anau.

Dock Bay Lodge exterior

The feeling that we’d walked into something special, started at the front door.

Dock Bay Lodge Te Anau

And continued inside.

Dock Bay Lodge Te Anau2

Just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, we were shown to one of the lodge’s 5 suites, the elegant ‘Luxmore’ suite. We loved the high stud and the calming cream & gold interiors.

Dock Bay Lodge, Te Anau 2

Its so easy to relax from your own private balcony – seriously, how good is this view guys!

Dock Bay Lodge3

Milford Sound Accommodation

 

Milford Sound has limited accommodation and is geared towards the backpacker market, but Milford Sound Lodge has built upmarket chalets for visitors requiring a different comfort level, including underfloor heating, super-king bed….

Milford Sound Lodge

…plus views of the spectacular scenery….and a travel agent hard at work.

Milford Sound Lodge2

The slightly downside is that some of the chalets are close to the backpackers ablution block, but if you can ignore the occasional whooping-it-up of young adventurers, you’ll get an an extremely close-up encounter with nature.

Milford Sound Lodge3

Even in bad weather, Milford Sound takes on a powerful ethereal beauty, unique to anywhere else in the world. But that’s just my opinion, dear traveller. Best you come here and judge for yourself.

Milford Sound scene

 

Happy Travelling.

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April 21st, 2016

Millbrook luxury Golf Resort Queenstown

You don’t have to be a golfer to enjoy the upscale Millbrook Resort experience. We spent 4 days nestled within 500 acres of this beautiful and serene property, only 10 min from Queenstown. The drive into the property set the scene for what was to be a sensational birthday celebration.

Millbrook Resort1

This resort is like a small town but the only sense you get is one of space and beauty. The mountain backdrop and pristine greens create stunning views, no matter where you walk.

Millbrook Resort three

The accommodation sits in a horseshoe formation around the greens.

millbrook Resort two

From the many accommodation options on offer, we chose one of the semi-attached, 2-level cottages. No matter where in the resort you want to go, just ring reception and an enclosed vehicle will collect you, then drop you off again at your accommodation.

Millbrook cottage

This is where my sister plonked herself for the rest of the afternoon. With views like this, I can’t say I blamed her.

millbrook four

Millbrook Spa

But enough of the views, lets talk about the Spa! Out of respect for the privacy of other guests, I didn’t take photos, so here is one from Millbrook:

Millbrook Resort Spa2

Photo Millbrook Resort

 

Out of all the spa experiences I’ve had, both here and overseas, this would rate as the best! The whole process was seamless. I had booked the Pure Indulgence Facial. The staff were living advertisements of their profession – glowing with good health and utterly gorgeous. They worked in discrete silence and with the lilting sound of water and flutes we floated into bliss.

 

Millhouse Restaurant – Millbrook Resort

There are 3 restaurants at Millbrook, not counting the clubhouse. On the previous night, we’d eaten at the Hole-in-One cafe and enjoyed the freshness of the food. Tonight we dined at The Millhouse, their top tier restaurant. It was great to have some of my family celebrate with me. Say “cheese” guys’.

Millbrook family photo

Of course there is a very good reason for the smiles and here are just two of them: 1) the deconstructed sticky date pudding….

Millbrook Dessert2

….(2) this absolutely scrumptious Chocolate & Raspberry Assiette (Alaska Bomb, Pavlova, Mousse & Compote).

Millbrook Dessert1

Smiles all round it seems. Best Birthday ever!

millbrook pam

Happy travelling.

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April 18th, 2016

Driving Christchurch to Queenstown

After leaving christchurch with my sister in tow, we headed through Darfield, veering off into the Inland scenic route SH77 towards Rakaia Gorge. Just before the gorge below, there’s a steep, winding stretch of road, where at the upper most corner, a magnificent valley is revealed.

Rakaia Valley

Rakaia Gorge

We’re in a party mood, my sister and me and the volume of our chatter is rising with each passing kilometre. Michael, our trusty driver, has become rather quiet, something we didn’t really notice until it was too late..more on that later.  There’s a great lookout point a few kms after the bridge:

Rakaia Gorge lookout

Geraldine

We stopped at the pretty little town of Geraldine, home to Barkers Jams, cheeses, icecream and coffee – a popular refreshment stop.

Geraldine

We resumed driving towards Burkes Pass via the beautiful agricultural area known as Fairlie. Plenty of sheep grazing here.

Burkes Pass

Lake Tekapo

After Burkes Pass we reach the ‘jewel’ of the Mackenzie Basin, Lake Tekapo, a magnificent lake with unusual turquoise-green water, resulting from ‘rock flour’ from the glaciers. These fine pieces of sediment mix with the sunlight to create the lake’s unique colour.

Lake Tekapo small

We had a great coffee and lunch at Run 76 – bacon & tomato quiche, vegetable frittata and gluten-free options – quality home-baking.

Lake Tekapo Cafe

How could I not mention the iconic Church of the Good Shepherd!  It’s rather busy here today, so after being shoved out of the way too many times, Michael bundles us up in the car and continues to our fav, Lake Pukaki. I still manage to get this shot before leaving and it was very kind of the lady in the foreground to pose for my photo, even though I didn’t ask her to.

Lake Tekapo church

Lake Pukaki

Not far away from Lake Tekapo, is Lake Pukaki and it’s always magnificent! Remember what I said about the colour of the water, well this shot pretty much sums it up

Lake Pukaki small

At Lake Pukaki there is the Mt Cook Alpine Salmon outlet where you can buy salmon before resuming your travels to Omarama. Omarama is a small township at the southern end of the MacKenzie Basin good place to stop for refreshments. It’s about this stage of the journey that Michael demanded a 5min gossip break from the 2 females in the car.  It was hard, but we complied. Michael enjoyed a few blissful moments through Lindis Pass.

Lindis Pass small

The Crown Range

As far as I’m aware, the Crown Range is the highest public road in New Zealand. If you’re travelling this road between May and September, you need to carry chains.  At 1121 metres, its not for the fainthearted, especially if you have 2 chatterboxes in the car. But for the photos alone, it’s so worth it.

Crown Range small

After slowly descending down to Queenstown to the Millbrook Resort which is 18.7kms out of Queenstown, we arrive to 500 acres of the most breathtaking grounds of reds, golds and greens. The birthday girl has arrived!

Happy Travelling

 

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April 14th, 2016

Nelson to Christchurch Inland Route

Yes folks, we’re back on the road again after a long and busy season. Today we travelled from Nelson to Christchurch on a glorious Autumn day. We chose the inland route and although it lacks the cafe options of the Coastal Route, the scenery from Murchison onward, is utterly gorgeous!

After Murchison

We had many a beautiful change of scenery to enjoy along the way before reaching Springs Junction and this one would have to be my fav for the day:

Towards Lewis Pass

For me, Springs Junction is merely a petrol and toilet stop, but if you’re desperately hungry, there is a ‘Tearoom’. But why linger, when further ahead is Maruia Springs. There is a cafe and accommodation at Maruia Springs which has changed ownership and since been refurbished – must try it next time. We leave the wide open spaces and head through a beautiful forest.

Maruia Springs Forest

This is the point where Michael becomes the passenger and I take over the driving (except that he never stops being the driver…not totally) I do like this photo he took showing the milky green of the Maruia River.

Maruia River

I never cease to be amazed by the beauty of the Lewis Pass and it’s especially gorgeous after a dusting of snow, but we’ll have to wait a few more months before it’s looking like this:

Lewis Pass2

Onto the flatness of the Canterbury Plains, we head into the beautiful wine country of Waipara, stopping for lunch at the Nor’Wester Cafe at Amberley (a great choice with friendly and quality food. We’re staying at the Hotel Montreal (in Montreal Street) in Christchurch tonight. Beautiful spacious Junior Suite.  I’m loving the friendly and obliging housekeeping staff!

Hotel Montreal

Tomorrow marks the official commencement of a very significant birthday for moi! Queenstown here we come. Let the celebrations begin!

Happy Travelling.

 

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