Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Cycling New Zealand 2014 Day 7 : Back To Queenstown Via Arrowtown

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Cycling New Zealand Day 7: Back To Queenstown Via Arrowtown
Feeling on top of the world at the Kingston end of Lake Wakatipu.
Queenstown & Arrowtown, New Zealand : 21st November 2014
Small Group Ride - Road Trip Te Anua>Arrowtown>Queenstown
After a good day at Milford Sound and an interesting multi-national dinner at Te Anau (... see previous day's blog); it's another road trip today. This time it's back to Queenstown via Arrowtown, along the way we had a precious find... of honey! Then later in the evening, there was another surprise for us at our "hotel".

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It was a lively breakfast of chatting with our house-mates at Rosie's. We were a happy lot, all cheerfully looking forward to continuing our exploration of NZ. Some will be going to Milford Sound, either by car or for the more adventurous ones, hiking through the hilly trails.. For others like us, it's a continuation of their tour to other parts of New Zealand.

As we drove back to Queenstown, we could only admire the cycling trail (part of the Alps 2 Ocean trail) and wistfully wish that we had more time to do that trail. The trail even had nice timber bridges crossing the many streams along the way.

At an unscheduled rest stop at Garston is where we made our good find for the day.
Garston is a town along Route 6 leading from Te Anau/Invercargill to Queenstown. It's a small place with a few houses facing the main road set amidst greenery. The quaint place reminds me of the sceneries from Beauty & the Beast (where Belle, the Beauty was suppose to marry a man coincidently called Gaston). I was half expecting Belle to pop out from a corner and start singing!

There was no Belle dancing and singing around, but we did find something as sweet - a shop that sells honey!

The shop's cosy interior drew us in and we were soon sampling some of the best honey that we had ever tasted.

In this shop, this old man learnt something about honey too.
For example the famed Manuka Honey is named after the Manuka flower; silly 'ol me all the time thought that it was named after something Maori!

The type of honey is named after the flower from which the bees gather their nectar. The above is Clover Honey.

Then there is Thyme Honey. These different flowering plants thrive better in specific localities in South Island, the different honey are harvested from the respective regions.
The shop's free tasting offer paid off, we later did order a fair bit of different types of honey from them through their website: http://hunnyshop.myshopify.com/

1:00pm - At Arrowtown, we decided to each do our own thing. Andrew & Hui Min went to look for good eats, Siew Yung went for a short cycling stint and I went to the Lakes Distric Museum & Gallery.

The museum traces the discovery of gold in this area, the arrival of the gold miners. It also displays artefacts and life-sized dioramas showing life was back then.
There is even a section cataloguing the contribution of imported Chinese labour in the gold industry. I paid special attention here, scanning through photos of the Chinese, hoping that perhaps I have a long lost rich gold-miner relative in NZ. Too bad, that was not the case.

We gathered again to do a short tour of the relics of the Chinese Settlement. This was a small settlement of the Chinese who were here during the gold rush. Nothing much remains except for remnants of some small "houses" which were more like lean-to sheds just big enough to fit in two persons. Some of these were built into the hills. These bear testament to the harsh and almost slave like conditions that these Chinese were subject to and it makes me wonder whether they are survived by any of descendants who could still be  living around this area.

Back in Queenstown we will be staying three nights at the Discovery Sherwood Hotel. We put up at one of these double storey units. The place may not have the merriment of Robin Hood and his jolly men...

... but sitting slightly higher on the edge of the Goldfield Heights small hillock, it had one of the better views of Lake Wakatipu.

The place has just been refurbished and re-launched. In good marketing spirit, the management invited us over for a free dinner at their in-house restaurant. Sitting there by a warm fireside and enjoying the food and drinks was a good end to the day.

Yes, in Sherwood we did have some merriment of our own.

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Thursday, December 25, 2014

Cycling New Zealand 2014 Day 6 : Mildford Sound & A Multinational Dinner

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Cycling New Zealand Day 6: Mildord Sound & A Multinational Dinner
Te Anau & Milford Sound, New Zealand : 20th November 2014
Small Group Ride - Road Trip Te Anua>Milford Sound>Te Anua
The previous evening our co-host "Weatherman" Alistair had advised us that due to bad weather conditions the road back from Milford Sound will be closed in this afternoon.

Scenic spots along the road from Te Anau to Milford Sound (click on map for enlarge view).
The road to Milford Sound is very scenic, with several interesting places to see. So despite the dark skies and worry about rain, we decided to drive up ourselves there for a cruise of the fjord. Having to finish and drive back before they close the road in the early afternoon, we did not have time to stop and enjoy the scenic spots on the way up.

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7:30am - After a quick breakfast we set out for Milford and were greeted by a surrealistic sunrise of beams raying our through the rain clouds hanging low over the snow-capped mountains. It had rain the previous night to create this scene, so rain or no rain it seems the place is still picturesque.

The road took us through the mountains and ...
... pass streams cascading whitely through the rocks ...

... of waterfall crashing down into pools of crystal clear waters ...

... and of green in a snow-white valley.

9:15am - After driving 117km, we arrive at the Milford Sound Information Centre where we book a cruise of the sound with Mitre Peak at NZD80 per pax.

From the information centre, we took a 1km. walk to a pier at the other side of a small bay. Boats were waiting at the pier to take tourists out and around the fjord (only tour buses are allowed to be parked near the boating pier).
It was drizzling, and the sun was no where to be seen. But this greyish-green landscape of Milford Sound was a different beauty by itself.
As we sailed around, we could see clouds floating low, so low that they were grazing the sides of the mountains. And they were long clouds! Now I understand why New Zealand is called  Aotearoa, the land of the long white clouds.

More photos from Milford Sound:
View from the rear funnel of our boat.

Bridal Veil Falls, so named as it looks like a bride with a trailing veil.

Water from the falls splashing onto the windscreen as the boat approaches very close to one of the falls. The more adventurous went out to be splashed by the falling water (some crazily without raincoats!). Guess where I was during this episode? Yup, I was cosily inside taking this photo. Even inside the boat it was already cold - this tropical monkey IS definitely not going out there to get shivering wet!

Bowen Falls, at a height of 162 metres it's three times the height of the Niagara Falls.
But it still falls far short of the world record of 979 meters held by Angel Falls in Venezuela.

Seals barking on a rocky outcrop.

Stirling Falls falling from a U-shaped valley.
(Click here for more views of Milford Sound, especially those on bright sunny days).

Our cruise boat, the Mitre Peak. It does not look big but had served us well (i.e. kept us safe & dry - most of us anyway).
Our cruise had lasted us almost an hour and a half - now we have to rush back or be stranded here when the road back is closed due to stormy conditions....

11:45am - We just made it to Homer's Tunnel. Here there was a road-block and a friendly ranger noted down our car number and advised us to drive cautiously ahead and not to stop.
Mirror Lakes.
Phew.... we made it in the nick of time as they closed the roads soon after that. I guess there must be another ranger further ahead who must have noted our car number to ensure that we had crossed safely.
Now past the critical zone, we could leisurely drive and made a stop at Mirror Lakes, a series of shallow lakes with mountains in the back ground. It was still drizzling and the mountains were not well reflected in the water.
(Click here to see images of Mirror Lakes).

Back in Te Anua, we stopped at the China City Restaurant and had Curry Noodles, Fried Rice and Tomyam Soup. The food was nothing spectacular, but having missed Asian food, we were not complaining.

... and some local Tui Beer to go with them. This was nice, light and slightly sweet.

There we were chatting away with new friends from other countries at Rosie's when Siew Yung had this grand idea. The previous evening, all of us had cooked individually for ourselves, why not cook a little more and share our food. This way, we will get to try dishes from each others' countries.
So, here is our multi-national dinner:
The Danish contingent presenting their food.

Malaysian Chicken Curry.

What a mix! Singaporean Chicken Rice with Mexican Chillies; but it worked - it was delicious.

Chinese Stir-fried Mixed Vegetables.

Spanish Tortillas.

New Zealand Potato Gratin.

American Chocolate Brownies.

English Almond Biscuits.

We had a wonderful time tasting each other's food, trading travelling notes and chatting with each other.
Many thanks to you Rosie and Alistair, for making us feel warmly at home while away from home.

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You are at - Jotaro's Blog / AhPek Biker / Cycling NZ 2014 / Day 6 : Milford Sound & A Multinational Dinner     | Jump to Day 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 7 / 8 / 9 / 10 / 11 / 12 / 13 / 14 /15 / 16
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