Today we would be leaving Lake Tekapo to head off to Wanaka, which is 199 km away with an estimated travel time of 2 hours and 17 minutes. We checked-out by 10 am after having our home-made breakfast at the cottage, dropped by the local cafe to get our cuppa coffee and we’re off!
Finally we reached Wanaka after 2 hours plus and checked-in to Wanaka Hotel, which was conveniently located at the center of town. We made some lunch and then had our much-needed rest from the drive. In the evening, we decided to take a little stroll along Lake Wanaka which was just a few minutes drive from our hotel.
Afterwards, a visit to the supermarket to top-up our food supplies before going back to our hotel. I even managed to get an inexpensive pink and black woolen glove from here, what a great find.
Made a home-made dinner and we called it a day. An exciting day awaits the next day!
2nd March 2014, Sunday
Today was our only “full” day in Wanaka and we wanted to make it a free and easy relaxing day. One of the places we wanted to check out was Cinema Paradiso, a quaint vintage cinema that I discovered while researching in TripAdvisor. A quick check on the movie schedules and we decided to watch Disney’s Frozen, which none of us had watched before. Frozen was amazing to the point of song’s in my head amazing. Let it go… *sings*
After a relaxing movie afternoon, it was time for some fun and action! Next we headed to Puzzling World, where illusion rooms and a 3-D maze awaits us.
We wanted to do some skydiving as we passed by Skydive Wanaka on the way as that would have been really thrilling. Unfortunately even though we had 3 days in Wanaka, we only had 1 full day as the other 2 days are actually half-days since we spent half of it on driving. So we decided to choose leisure over adrenaline rush – as skydiving would have taken a full day. If He wills, we will definitely spend more time in Wanaka next time and attempt some skydiving!
Wanaka is such a relaxing place to be. So laid back and unpretentious.
Back to our hotel for dinner, and packing up for the next day as we would be leaving Wanaka late morning (already!?). We would be going back to Queenstown for souvenir shopping and to catch our return flight the day after next. Stay tuned for our last series of adventure in Kiwimoon! 🙂
This week’s topic is perfect for me since I’m in the midst of blogging about my honeymoon in Queenstown, New Zealand. So I will share three perspectives of this week’s theme based on the trip, of pictures that I have not shared in my previous posts.
1. On our way from Tekapo to Wanaka, my husband and me passed by scenic Lindis Pass, which was one of the filming spots for Lord of The Rings.
2. The view from our accommodation in Queenstown for the last day, Reavers Lodge which is located at the top of the hill. Challenging drive up due to the steep slope, but breathtaking view from up here.
3. And lastly, me enjoying myself climbing on top of a tree in Queenstown Gardens.
Today we would be heading for a 3-hour drive to Lake Tekapo, which spans a distance of 255km from Queenstown. We would be spending a night at a small town called Tekapo, where it is one of the best stargazing spots in NZ hence the main purpose for our trip there. Tekapo is part of the Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve, which is ultimately part of the International Dark Sky Reserves around the world.
But first, a goodbye to our lodge that has served us well for the past 3 days…
And then a quick stop to Queenstown central before starting our drive. Not saying goodbye to Queenstown yet for now as we would be coming back on the last day for souvenir shopping and to catch our return flight.
Starting off our long drive with a Bismillah and a prayer for Allah to keep us safe throughout the journey, InsyaAllah. Du’a for protection against danger: “In the Name of Allah with His Majestic name none can harm you through the skies or earth. For Allah is All-Hearing and All-Knowing.”
50 minutes into the drive, we made our first stop at Cromwell; 55 km from Queenstown. There is a supermarket, petrol kiosk and washrooms at most stops on the road. So we took a short break to stretch our legs and explore the area. Another hour later we reached Omarama, another stop in our journey. However, it was also here that a hail storm started to fall! Hubs and me thought it was normal rain… until we were hit by small ice cubes and discovered that they were hailstones. After about 15 minutes, the hail storm stopped but it was then replaced by intermittent rain which unfortunately got heavier as we drove along.
We had no choice but to continue with the journey. We could not possibly stop halfway for a long period of time as it would delay our arrival to Lake Tekapo. So even though we were terrified, we made lots and lots of du’as and selawat all the way. Alhamdulillah, Allah kept us safe and sound. Always remember that Allah is here, there and everywhere. It’s Allah’s lands you are traversing on, so leave it to the One in-charge, the Owner of the roads, trees and mountains.
Another hour of driving in the rain, with a last stop at Twizel and we’ve finally reached the town of Tekapo. It was still raining heavily when we reached Tekapo central, and we’ve never been more relieved to reach this town, Alhamdulillah.
After a brief rest in the car, we proceeded deeper into Tekapo towards Lake Tekapo Cottages, our lodging for the night.
And guess what! As soon as we reached the vicinity Lake Tekapo Cottages, it started to snow!!! We were checking in when Steve, the guy at the reception pointed to us, “Hey look! It’s snowing! Like Christmas!” It had only stopped raining a while ago so we were ecstatic when we saw that true enough, little drops of snow had started to slowly fall… it was such a beautiful sight SubhanAllah. It felt like a reward for us from Allah for going through the challenging drive, and I will never forget this moment InsyaAllah.
Then Steve showed us the way to our lodge…
And this is our cottage, the very cozy Potting Shed. It was just as described by the website; “The Potting Shed is more of a studio/cabin layout with double bed, and bathroom. TV, toaster and jug supplied (no major cooking facilities). This cottage is small, but nicely furnished and comfortable. There are dishes supplied for takeaways or a light salad type meal.”
The rest of the evening was spent exploring our surroundings. First stop – a few minutes walk and we’ve reached the lake, looking as breathtaking as always.
Scenery overload… everything’s just so beautiful. SubhanAllah.
Nearer to the vicinity of our cottage, lies some of the other different types of cottages housed by Lake Tekapo Cottages.
One of the wonderful things about this cottage is that the owner loves flowers so much that she even has her own flower garden at the cottage, which she plants and maintains herself!
There are even benches and picnic chairs for you to just rest and relax here…
After dinner, we headed to the surrounding of the Church of The Good Shepherd, in which the area is one of the best spots for stargazing at Lake Tekapo. It was really dark by then and we were not allowed to use any kind of artificial lights (so flash lights and smartphone brightness were a no-no, only red lights were allowed) as part of conserving the natural brightness of the (dark) sky. You could also go up to the Mt. John Observatory for a better view, but we decided to just stick to the church area which was just a 5-8 minutes walk from our cottage.
This is how the church looks like at day time though.
And this is how it looks like when we came, except it was a little cloudy so slightly less bright, but still bright nonetheless.
During the day the skies are blue and clouds float aplenty. But as night unfolds, the scene changes into dark purplish blue filled with a thousand glittering stars. The Southern Hemisphere allows for a much higher visibility of stars and if you’re lucky, you get to see some planets floating by. And Alhamdulillah, we were fortunate enough to see planet Mars appear, looking like an orangey non-blinking dot amongst the sparkling white ones (while stars have a blinking effect, planets do not). We also saw planet Venus as well as the Sirius star (which Allah specifically mentions in Surah An-Najm, ayat 49) and Orion’s belt, thanks to Google Skymaps which we used to locate the stars and planets and their names.
SubhanAllah it was such a beautiful, amazing, surreal experience. Plenty of moments for reflection… Plenty of verses Allah has mentioned in the Quran on stars and the constellations…
“And it is He who placed for you the stars that you may be guided by them through the darknesses of the land and sea. We have detailed the signs for a people who know.” ~Surah Al-An’am, verse 97
“And We have placed within the heaven great stars and have beautified it for the observers.” ~ Surah Al-Hijr, verse 16
“That He is the Lord of Sirius (the Mighty Star)” ~Surah An-Najm, 49
“Indeed, We have adorned the nearest heaven with an adornment of stars“ ~Surah As-Saffatt, 6
“Blessed is He Who made constellations in the skies, and placed therein a Lamp and a Moon giving light;“ ~ Surah Al-Furqan, 61
Alhamdulillah for the experience. Stargazing at New Zealand… check!
The next day we would be heading to our next destination, the wonderful town of Wanaka.
At 7.30 am, we waited by the carpark of our lodge for the bus to Milford Sound. We were picked up by a small yellow minibus, Connectabus, which brought us to the Clock Tower in Queenstown central. Then we transferred to another bus – the bus with a glass ceiling, which we booked via Milford Sound Select – and met other travelers heading to the fjord.
It takes approximately 4 hours to and fro the harbour of Milford Sound, in which the boat will take us along the fjord for about 2 hours. We decided not to drive as we were unfamiliar with the roads and wanted to avoid the long drive. The Singaporean uncle we met the day before shared with us that if you stayed at Te Anau, it would be nearer to Milford Sound, and that they would be driving there. Anyway, the journey itself were breathtaking, filled with spectacular sceneries and many quirks like these.
About 2.5 hours into the drive, our bus driver James stopped us at Te Anau for a short break where we had our cuppa coffee and some breakfast.
We soon continued our journey afterwards, and James stopped us along The Milford Road.
Then another stop at the Mirror Lakes!
We made another stop along another river, where we can also refill our waterbottles from the glacial waters.
Undeniably, there’s a lot of waterfalls in the fiord area. James made a final stop before the fiord and we went in to explore the area. It was Heaven for waterfall lovers like us!
And finally, we have reached the harbour where we will embark aboard the boat on Milford Sound…
Off we go!
Another 4 hours journey by bus back to Queenstown, we managed to reach back to our lodge by 7pm. As opposed to the start of the day where we were picked up by a Connectabus, this time around James actually drove us back to our lodge personally (which meant that we were the last to get off). We took the time to chat with James, and discovered that before he became a bus driver for Milford Sound Select, he used to be a captain for the Milford Sound boat for 30 years! Wow, an amazing feat I must say. Imagine spending every day on this spectacular fiord…
Alhamdulillah for the wonderful Milford Sound experience!
(Milford Sound… check! *ticks off infinite ever-growing travel list*)
After an overnight flight from Singapore Changi Airport, we arrived at Queenstown International Airport at 3.55 pm.
We flew from Singapore straight to Queenstown via Qantas Airlines, transiting in Melbourne Airport for 3 hours. The flight from Singapore to Melbourne took 7 hours while from Melbourne to Queenstown was about 3 hours. Initially we thought of flying to Christchurch as most flights offer this, but when we discovered that we could fly straight to Queenstown, we immediately took it as it meant we didn’t have to drive 6-7 hours from Christchurch. As this was our first time traveling together, we wanted to minimize long drives and make this trip more relaxed and leisurely.
Then we proceeded to pick-up our rental car at Ace Rentals, which was just opposite from the airport.
First stop was the electronic shop to get our mobile prepaid cards (with 4G!) and then to the supermarket along the way (Fresh Choice) to get our food and other supplies before checking into our accomodation, the Shotover Lodge. This would be our shelter for the first 3 days of our trip.
As it was nearing dusk by the time we arrived, we took the time to settle in and have a good rest. The next day, we would be off to explore central Queenstown!
* * *
26th February 2014, Wednesday
We started our day by having a home-made breakfast by the balcony of our lodge.
Drove to Queenstown central in search of something to do…
And decided to go up the Skyline Gondola!
This is a must-do if it’s your first time visiting Queenstown. Up on the gondola you get to see the whole of Queenstown central from a bird’s eye view.
The gondola will stop at the top where you get off and proceed to the Skyline Gondola Viewing Tower. Breathtaking view from at the top!
There’s a viewing deck, cafe, restaurant, souvenir shop, plenty of things to do here. We bought a few things at the souvenir shop, and were glad to discover that we were entitled to a discount off the official photos of us in the gondola. But actually, if you want to get souvenirs, go to the souvenir shops along Queenstown Mall as they are much, much cheaper.
Take your time and roam around, take photos while enjoying the spectacular scenery. Another piece of God’s magnificent art, SubhanAllah…
We also had a chance to see people enjoying their luge ride down below.
We were fortunate to see some paragliding action going on!
And if you dare, do some bungee…
Headed back down after an hour plus and had our lunch at Turkish Kebabs, which is the only halal restaurant in Queenstown central. The mixed beef and lamb kebabs that we ordered were delicious… and HUGE! Even the rice set that my husband bought was generously filled. Worth the price, and needless to say we were extremely full Alhamdulillah after we were done with our meals.
After lunch, we took a stroll along the town…
…before deciding to go up hiking Queenstown Hill. (What a way to burn those lunch calories huh? Haha). We drove to the start of the track at Belfast Street, and from there began our climb.
We passed by different kinds of terrains during the climb…
Some steep slopes as well…
And finally reached the mid-point!
We were greeted by breathtaking views of the lake and its’ surroundings… which made it worth the climb up!
And guess what, we actually met some fellow Singaporeans during our hike! This sporting couple has been married for 30 years and we first saw them on our way up (they actually overtook us while we were resting, haha). They told us that we were the second fellow Singaporean honeymoon couple they met during the climb. It’s always nice to meet people from home when you’re overseas.
We didn’t continue to the summit but if you would like to, this is the pathway you’d have to follow.
The terrain was fun as it was made up of a variety of different trails, which were well-maintained. There are illustration boards which act as route markers hence making it easy to navigate. Do drink lots of water, hydrate yourself as you go up. If you have never hiked in a colder country before, do be prepared for your body to get acclimatized to the cold.
As it was nearing dusk when we ended, we decided to call it a day. The next day, we would be headed to Milford Sound, which is said to be one of the world’s greatest natural wonders.
Let’s see what’s happened during these past couple of months?
Firstly, I got married Alhamdulillah. 🙂
And then flew to Queenstown, New Zealand for my honeymoon.
My husband and me went on a self-drive trip for our honeymoon (kiwimoon, which I will refer to) so when I saw this daily prompt, it got me inspired to write. It’s such an amazing feeling when inspiration strikes!
What’s your travel style? Are you itinerary and schedule driven, needing to have every step mapped out in advance or are you content to arrive without a plan and let happenstance be your guide?
I would say that my travel style is a mixture of both itinerary driven as well as being flexible enough to adapt to changes in travel plans.
As it was our first time traveling together, we spent a lot of time planning and researching for the trip. Our travel plans included an itinerary since we would be moving from one place to another (around Queenstown, Tekapo and Wanaka), so we needed to follow a schedule as we would be checking in and out of hotels etc.
However when we were in the towns itself, we let ourselves wander happily and didn’t stick to specific timings or needing to follow every step. We had some places in mind that we wanted to go, so we just went with the flow. Like, on our second day in Queenstown we decided to go up on the Skyline Gondola, explored Queenstown central and then decided on a whim to go on a hike up on Queenstown Hill.
Reading bloggers’ travel posts on NZ really helped me a lot for the planning of the trip, so InsyaAllah, I will blog more about our kiwimoon soon. 🙂