Our Summer Adventure to the South Island with BaBa and NuNu, Part 3

Here is the third and final installment of this fun-filled visit. We pick up where we left off, after our trip to Milford Sound, followed by a day trip to Arrowtown. We were back in Queenstown and enjoying the sights, as grey as they might’ve been. The week we were there was unseasonably cold and dreary. (It was the middle of summer, for all you North Hemispherians.) Of course the forecast for the week after our visit looked gorgeous. Isn’t that always the way? But the weather didn’t slow us down any.

January 7: Queenstown

Sean and I had been hoping to do a nice long hike one day on this trip and weather be damned, this was going to be the day. BaBa and NuNu generously took the kids on a vintage steamship tour of Lake Wakatipu on the TSS Earnslaw while Sean and I followed our Queenstown map of walking trails to the start of the Fernhill Loop track, what looked to be a challenging, 3-hour hike.

Below is a photo of the grandparents and the grandkids boating across the lake in the TSS Earnslaw.

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While I don’t remember all that they told us, I do remember that despite the rain, they had a great time! The tour guides were informative, and riding on the vintage vessel was exciting and educational, with some of the mechanisms visible to the passengers. They boated across the lake to a sheep farm, where the farmer (a funny, personable guy) demonstrated how a farmer uses the help of a sheepdog to herd the sheep. He told them about the nature of sheepdogs and the sheep they herd, and he even quickly sheered a sheep. They had morning tea and then headed back for Queenstown. Here’s their souvenir photo.

01While they were having their adventure, Sean and I were having ours. Although, ours was not such a resounding success. Our hike was cold and wet and sadly, we spent the first 45 minutes getting lost in the woods. I don’t think we ever got to the start of our trail. At some point we abandoned the Fernhill Loop and found our way into the Ben Lomond Reserve and walked up until we found ourselves at the top of the Skyline Gondola.  And right in front of us, perched on the edge of the hill, was a timber hut, the office of operations for Ziptrek Ecotours, the zipline tour company that we now realized was responsible for the squeals of fear and delight that echoed through the woods as we’d been walking up. Sean and I looked at each other. “We should zipline down the mountain!” we said. That would surely be a story to tell the kids when we met back up with them. Alas, their next group tours wasn’t scheduled to start until early afternoon, a few hours away. And so we began our cold, wet hike back down the hill.

07Despite the cold and wet, we enjoyed the scenery as we meandered our way back to the CBD. We attempted to warm up via hot chocolate while we waited for the TSS Earnslaw to return. I didn’t warm up until I soaked my hands and feet in the motel tub for 10 minutes. Good times!

That afternoon, we drove to the impressive Aqualand Aquatics Center just outside of town. It was a great time in there, although sadly, the few hours that we spent inside in the covered warmth out of the rain was also the only few hours that the rain stopped and the sun came out. Oh well…

We drove back to the motel and then walked into town for dinner at the delicious Thai restaurant, @Thai. And because we had many a noodle and rice dish at our table, thus continued The Unintentional Carb Binge Tour of the South Island 2014 ™.

This was the cloudy horizon at dusk over Lake Wakatipu as we walked through town homeward.

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January 8: Wanaka

The weather forecast was pretty bleak this day as well, so we decided to drive to nearby Wanaka (WAH-na-ka), and check out the National Transit and Toy Museum and Puzzling World, both with indoor entertainment. Sadly, NuNu had a day of work to do, so we set off without her to Wanaka. We drove via Arrowtown, since Sean felt that we would all regret not tasting the sticky buns at Provisions of Arrowtown that we’d missed when we were there a couple of days before.  Our Gisborne friends had recommended these to us while we were there, (“obscenely good” is the phrase that is used by those in the know); however, when we’d gotten there that day, in the mid-afternoon, they’d been sold out. So back to Arrowtown we went for coffee, hot chocolates, and carb and sugar fuel to power us! (They lived up to the hype.) With sticky fingers, we drove the scenic route from Arrowtown to Wanaka via the Crown Range Road and Cardrona Valley. There were dozens of switchbacks to start, with overlooks like the one below. Although it’s hard to make out, there was a faint rainbow spanning those two hills.

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First, on the list, The Transit and Toy Museum. What an overwhelming collection of vehicles of all kinds from all eras, as well as a dizzying collection of toys! This place is probably every hoarder’s dream, the example that gives legitimacy to a pathological level of collecting. It was unbelievable all that they had amassed.

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First we enjoyed playing on the pedal cars in the yard that sits between the hangars that house the various vehicles, and the main building that showcases the ga-zillions of toys.

19Soon, the skies opened up and we made a dash for the nearest hangar full of vehicles.

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11I can’t believe that I didn’t take any pictures of the toy part of the museum. I think I may have been in a bit of shock. If you click on the link above, you can see some of the photos on their website. However, it doesn’t begin to capture the mind-boggling collection that they have.

We ate a picnic lunch and then it was on to Puzzling World, a destination that I knew would be a hit, since BaBa, a mathematician, is a serious puzzler. (Sean and I are fans of puzzles, too.) BaBa loves word puzzles, number puzzles, crossword puzzles, as well as tactical puzzles. We sure got our fill here! Puzzling World is a one stop shop for all kinds of puzzles and games (they have a great gift shop and cafe to sit and play puzzles and games to your heart’s content), a very tricky 3D “Great Maze,” as well as exhibits of illusions of many types. If puzzles are your thing, this is a great destination!

When we first arrived, the rain had stopped, so we took that as our chance to try to the Great Maze.

12At first, you think that, what with the elevated sections, it can’t be that tricky, since surely you should be able to see what you need to do. Umm, no. It’s a very tough maze and is made all the more fun as you pass group after group, all plotting their plan of attack, all of which sounds remarkably like the plan that you just had, before you hit a dead end and started retracing your steps. There are exit doors that allow you take a break or give up. You’re never trapped. But we didn’t give up. We broke into two teams, Auric, BaBa, and I on one team, and Thora, Sean, and Nathan, our Gisborne friend, on another team.

The goal they give you is to reach each of the 4 towers in the 4 corners of the maze. Here is a moment of celebration: Sean’s team is in a tower taking a picture of us in a tower. There was probably some taunting being yelled between those two towers.

01Here’s Thora and Nathan, aka Silhouette Man.

02We did eventually solve it, although I think it took us about 30 minutes longer than we expected. Sixty-five minutes is the time that Sean and I are remembering. It’s funny to have walked so far and so long, but within such a narrow scope as that maze.

03Please don’t ask me if I’m pregnant. I don’t know why I’m holding my hand like that. I’m not pregnant. I’d just been binging on carbs for the last 5 days, remember?!?

04Relieved and proud of our victory, we had a brief rest over ice blocks (I was eating for two remember? Kidding! I’m not pregnant!!!) and then it was on to the Illusion Room. This first bit of the Illusion Room is really intense. I got totally nauseous almost immediately due to the brain-smashing illusions. Mercifully, this part of the museum is short. You’re out and on to more stable illusions that don’t screw with your basic sense of direction, like up verses down. Sheesh. Here’s a cool one, a wall of faces that look as if they project out into the room; however… they don’t! They cave in. Even though I know that, it’s really hard to make my eyes see it.

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Here’s a short video of the kids and Sean illustrating one of their interactive exhibits.

After we walked through all of the Illusion Rooms, we retired to the “puzzle cafe” where they have dozens of games and puzzles for you to play with for as long as you like. We happily hung out in this part of the museum for a good 45 minutes attempting all sorts of puzzles. I bounced between here and the gift shop. (It’s great!) Here’s BaBa and Thora hard at work on their respective puzzles.

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Hmm… Will he figure it out?

15      He got it!

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And lastly, a trip to the toilets provides one last illusion. Here’s Auric using the communal long drop toilet with strangers. (Hint: it’s an illusion.)

05After we got back to Queenstown, we met back up with Cathy for dinner at the lovely restaurant, Halo, which also marked the end of The Unintentional Carb Binge Tour of the South Island 2014 ™. They had a great menu and while I can’t remember exactly what we all had, I’m pretty sure none of us ate pizza or pasta. Or sticky buns.

January 9: Our last day in Queenstown/Glenorchy

We were so impressed with Halo that we went back there for breakfast the next morning. These were our last few hours with NuNu, before she flew back to the states to prepare for the beginning of the upcoming semester. We had a nice walk through the gardens and posed for some group shots. My strangle-hold on Auric will seem understandable in a couple photos.

06Here’s a nice one of the grandparents and the grandkids.

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And here’s what happens when Auric is not restrained.

08We took NuNu to the airport, wished her safe travels and then gave our goodbye hugs. We had just a few more hours on the South Island ourselves and decided to fill it with a drive on what has been called New Zealand’s most beautiful road and one of the most beautiful roads in all of the world, the short drive between Queenstown and the tiny town of Glenorcy.

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Here’s a short video made by an Auckland couple that does a great job illustrating the truths to those claims of “most beautiful road.”

With only a short couple of hours to kill, we didn’t take advantage of much that Glenorchy has to offer aside from a short walk along the Glenorchy Lagoon Walkway, an hour loop walk that allowed us to take in the gorgeous scenery on this beautiful day.

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09We actually ran into our Gisborne friends for the third day in a row as we waited for our food at a local restaurant. The wait was so long, though, that we had to race back to Queenstown just to make our flight! The Holliday Lateness Anxiety Gene caused for a couple of very stressed-out people in that car ride. But thankfully, we made it!

Our travels landed us in Napier in the evening. We’d booked a night at the Spanish Lady Motel in Napier ahead of time. So we rocked up, dropped off our bags, and then drove into town, starving and hoping to find a place to eat at 9:30 pm.

Thankfully the Emporium was open and happy to water and feed us! We had yummy food (I’m sure carbs were involved), and then around 10:30, we dragged our kids out of the bar (always a good look) and made our way back to the hotel.

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January 10: Napier and Gisborne

Now that I think about it, I can’t remember why we didn’t go to Splash Planet, the highly recommended water theme park. Maybe our wallets were hurting after a week in Queenstown (everything is expensive and they have all these amazing ways for you to spend your money!), or maybe we worried it would be swamped and over-crowded. I can’t remember. Regardless, we opted for the Ocean Spa, a nice aquatic center overlooking the beach. (The beaches aren’t used in Napier, I think due to the rip tides.) We had a nice time at these pools, briefly plunging into the cooler ones, playing in the warmer ones, and mellowing in the hot ones. After a few hours here, we packed it up and drove back to Gizzy, our adventure at it’s end.

January 11: Gisborne

Somehow I didn’t take pictures of my dad’s last day in Gisborne. I think we might’ve gone for a run and then later in the day we may have taken the kids out to Bushmere Estate  for a glass or two of a nice local white wine and some nibbles, a very Gizzy thing to do on a warm and sunny day. But because I didn’t take any photos, I don’t know for sure. (I’m pretty sure.)

What I do know is that we had a great time with BaBa and NuNu and look forward to their next visit. Here we are at the Gisborne Airport, saying goodbye. (Sniff.)

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And here is where I leave you, faithful and probably weary, reader. That was a lot to take in and you’re a champ in my book for reading to the end! Stay tuned for the next installment. Until then…

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