It’s really the end now. I’m typing this from the departure lounge of Hong Kong International Airport. We’ve had a great couple of days in Hong Kong.
Yesterday we spent some time scouring the markets on Hong Kong Island for various artifacts to fill our hand luggage with. The markets were quite manic, but not as mad as we’d thought they’d be. After buying too much stuff we headed up to the Peak: An area of Hong Kong on a hill overlooking the main throng. My brother-in-law, Jeremy, had booked us a table on one of the restaurants with a stunning view out over Hong Kong. Some nice shots from there, and a good meal.
Today we headed over to Ocean Park for some theme-park fun. It was a fun day, lots of animal attractions which we love and a fab mile long cable car ride across the harbour to the headland. We seemed to have picked the last day of term though; it was chock full of school kids. Oh well, we enjoyed ourselves despite the insane crowds.
Somewhat jet-lagged, I’m awake naturally at 8am. We’re here, finally, in our hotel room in Hong Kong. Our flight from Sydney was delayed by an hour or so due to strong head winds from connecting flights; then those same winds slowed us too. We landed at Hong Kong and made our way through security and customs, then hailed a taxi to the hotel. The journey was quite something — Hong Kong at night is a spectacle, so many huge buildings, so many lights. It was more how I had imagined Tokyo to be than Tokyo actually was!
The hotel was teeming with people milling around, we weren’t mentally prepared for it. After the peace and tranquillity of New Zealand it was a culture shock. Soon we discovered why it was so busy: So many flights had been delayed, lots of guests were still in their rooms in the hotel. Our room wasn’t ready; despite us being late ourselves. We were given access to a shower and a free dinner, but it was still 10pm before we could get into our own room. Retrospectively I think we should have kicked a bit more of a fuss up about it, but being awake for nearly 24 hours and our brains weren’t quite ready.
Nevertheless, it was lovely to get some sleep. The room is fairly nice; we can just about see the harbour (through some nasty-looking buildings). Internet access at last too; though I need to buy some wireless access cards to get access. Despite there being 24 wireless network access points within range, none are set up for free access; boo!
Hopefully our last early morning. The alarm went off at 4:15 this morning and boy it hurt. Ness and I are both suffering from a bit of a cold, which didn’t help us get up. Yesterday we visited a wildlife park to finally see our first live kiwi. They’re very odd-looking creatures; cute though! We then dropped off the van at the rental place and in doing so discovered that Christchurch airport closes overnight! Unlike the 24/7 Heathrow, we couldn’t just go in early and then doze on a seat until 4am — we’d have to get a hotel for the night.
We checked in at the hotel opposite the airport, and boy am I glad we did so now. A proper shower and whatnot and at least a few hours’ decent kip mean that this morning wasn’t quite as awful as it could have been. Next door to the hotel was the Antarctic Experience — an attraction demonstrating the wonders of the Antarctic. It was pretty good too: it certainly killed a couple of hours anyway. After that we had dinner in the hotel, then had an early night.
We’re now just waiting to board our first plane of the day — a flight to Sydney. At Sydney we have a 3 hour wait to transfer to a flight to Hong Kong; and our adventure continues! Still no wireless internet here — I’m hoping our hotel room in HK has a decent internet connection and I can finally upload all these stories!
Last real day today, and now we’re all parked up at our last camp stop it’s all rather sad. I really don’t want this trip to be over; and really it isn’t as we still have several days in Hong Kong yet. But nonetheless it does feel like it’s over.
Yesterday we enjoyed our visit to the Moeraki Boulders — they’re really unusual. Nobody quite knows why these large spherical balls have been created, then buried in sedimentary rock to be finally eroded out onto a beach. Spooky really, just goes to show what amazing things Nature can throw up from time to time!
After the boulders we popped to Aoraki, an area to the east of Christchurch. We’d be recommended visiting there by the camp-site owner in Invercargill — we’re very glad we popped along as it was gorgeous. A very french-influenced quaint port town with some lovely views of the sea. We did our usual trick of going into a bar ostensibly “for a drink” and then ending up finishing a bottle of wine and leaving somewhat drunkenly many hours later!
It’s going to be another early night tonight. We’re both knackered, though this time not from some ungodly physical activity. Last night we got chatting to the couple staying in the adjacent camper van, and before we knew it we were two bottles of wine down and staggering with John and Joy to get some more booze! We had a great night, they were such good fun, but we paid for it this morning!
Earlier yesterday we drove to Dunedin, which is a large city. Unlike Invercargill it has plenty of charm, and we enjoyed a few hours of wandering around and taking the place in (and no small amount of photos too.) We also took the opportunity to book ourselves in at our next few attractions.
Today we visited Lanarch Castle (“New Zealand’s only castle”) — more of a stately home in the style of a castle than a true castle, mind. Beautiful views over the Dunedin bay, and stunning gardens. Plenty more photos taken!
What a busy couple of days. We’re now in Invercargill, on the south of the south island. We’ve just had dinner and we’re enjoying a glass or two of wine before we head to bed, we’re both knackered. Our trip to Milford Sound was nothing short of spectacular.
Yesterday we woke up and had breakfast in a local café, after finding a secure- ish parking spot for the camper. As we were on an overnight cruise that meant leaving our little snail’s shell behind for a night. Luckily for us, New Zealand’s crime rate is virtually non-existent, so there wasn’t too much issue in leaving the camper on a public road. To be safe, we took the really expensive stuff with us (ie this laptop).
After a slightly delayed start, we were picked up by the coach to Milford. We’re both so glad we never considered coach touring New Zealand: Although the coach driver was excellent, stopping regularly to point out some amazing sites, it was also somewhat annoying to be spending as much time stopped as moving. That aside we did get some terrific pictures, and we did get to meet the native alpine parrots, the Kea. They’re fun birds, dirty green and plump, inquisitive things.
Despite our own best efforts these last two days, Ness and I are very much alive and well. Aching, but alive! Yesterday was the turn of our Shotover Trio: A combination activity including a jet-boat ride, helicopter ride and then white- water rafting. Another early start, we had to be waiting outside the information centre at 7.30am, not the easiest thing for us as you’ll no doubt know.
It was a short bus ride up to the Shotover Canyon — a deep canyon in which the Shotover river flows. Some parts of the river doubled as the River Anduin in Lord of the Rings; it’s a pretty impressive sight. The jet-boat was first. What an amazing device: two 750bhp ‘jet’ engines suck water from the underside of the boat and then spew it backwards at immense speed. The result is an amazingly fast and extremely nimble boat capable of travelling in only 10cm deep water. Not only that, it can do 360 degree doughnuts in the water. The guy driving it was a loony, he would repeatedly aim it at the sheer rock walls of the canyon only to twist and miss them by what felt like inches. We got a fair soaking in the backwashes as he did doughnuts — great fun.
After we’d clambered out of the jet boat we were ushered into the adjacent rafting building to get suited up. Another day in a wetsuit! In addition we also had a crash helmet and life-jacket too. All suited and booted we were driven to the helipad and ushered into a 8-seater helicopter. The pilot was a quietly-spoken fairly oldish chap (complete with white beard)…but he also was an utter loony. The ride up to the top of the white water rafting place was fantastic, and the pilot antics along the way made it like the most extreme roller coaster I’d ever been on — tops! all over too quickly, only took us a few minutes to make the journey. The buses carrying those who hadn’t elected to pay the extra NZ$60 for the helicopter took about another quarter of an hour to turn up.
We had a great drive this morning, and we made great time to get to Queenstown. We left at a good time, in the driving rain, and then made excellent progress all morning. After a brief stop for lunch in Wanaka we got back on the road. Now nice and sunny we made even better progress and arrived here at the camp site at a record new early time! Greeted by the most miserable staff in existence though, but you can’t have everything. We’ll be popping out in a mo to suss out Queenstown and book us some excursions.
Two updates in a day, I know! Just back from Queenstown town centre — it’s lovely! None of the guidebooks mention what a sweet place it is. Again, like Kaikoura we’re only here for the activities but it’s a lovely place overlooking a large clear water lake, hemmed in by a huge snow-capped mountain range called ‘The Remarkables’. Lots of nice-looking bars and restaurants too — we’ll be trying those out later.
We’ve also just spent an absolute fortune booking excursions for the next three days. Tomorrow we’re doing the Shotover Trio — a combination of three activities in one: Jet-boating, a helicopter ride and white-water rafting. That should be pretty thrilling — to calm ourselves afterwards we’re going to the bird life centre at the top of the hill (a gondola ride up) to see some real live kiwi. Then no doubt some more bar and restaurants.