Kiwimoon: Wonderful Wanaka (Day 5-6)

1st March 2014, Saturday

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!

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To the left, to the left, to Wanaka on the left…

On the way we passed by Lindis Pass Scenic Reserve and decided to stop for a while and explore the area.

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Lindis Pass is mountain-heaven for me. So much love for these magnificent yet humble mountains.

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.

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That is our white steed, as my husband likes to call it. We rented the car for our entire week in NZ and Alhamdulillah, we had a smooth ride throughout.
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Ducks swimming along Lake Wanaka minding their own business… with the spectacular mountain view as the backdrop.
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View of the other side, showing some hotels and buildings in Wanaka.

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.

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The supermarket just across the road from our hotel. Very convenient.

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*

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A cozy afternoon watching a movie at the coolest and most vintage cinema ever in Cinema Paradiso. I especially love the vintage car seat and the freshly baked cookies which you can buy during the intermission.

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.

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Feeling like Keanu Reeves in the Matrix, in the Tilted House. The room requires some kind of balancing as it is sloping up and down! Then we attempted the maze but after almost 2 hours trying to complete the mission… we gave up lol (we were so near yet so far). Decided to head to the puzzling shop to find some puzzling souvenirs instead before it closes in the evening.

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!

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I just love New Zealand.<3

Wanaka is such a relaxing place to be. So laid back and unpretentious.

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20140302_131439 Streets of Wanaka.

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! πŸ™‚

Previous on Kiwimoon: Starry, Starry Lake Tekapo (Day 4)

Next on Kiwimoon: Final Days in Queenstown (Day 6-7)

On Top At Lindis Pass, NZ (Weekly Photo Challenge: On Top)

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.

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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.

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3. And lastly, me enjoying myself climbing on top of a tree in Queenstown Gardens.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: On Top

If you’d like to read about my trip to Queenstown, head on here or click these links below (I still have 3 more stories to go though):

  1. Kiwimoon: Exploring Queenstown (Day 1-2)
  2. Kiwimoon: Mesmerizing Milford Sound (Day 3)
  3. Kiwimoon: Starry, Starry Lake Tekapo (Day 4)

Kiwimoon: Starry, Starry Lake Tekapo (Day 4)

28th February 2014, Friday

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…

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We’re going to miss you, Shotover Lodge. If Allah wills, we’ll definitely come back here again.

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.

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A stop at Turkish Kebabs where the owner packed small kebabs for our breakfast-on-the-road…

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.”

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So here we go… Husband as the driver and me as the commentator, safety personnel, signboard reader, singer (haha, gotta keep the driver awake.. but unfortunately I did fall asleep at some point).

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.

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In front of the supermarket at Omarama..Taking a short break from the drive before it started raining ice cubes.
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Spotted: a humanitarian book project run by local volunteers.

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.

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Driving in the rain..Perhaps Allah sent down the rain so that in our enjoyment, we don’t forget to remember Him.

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.

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Alhamdulillah at Tekapo after almost 4 hours of driving; took longer than expected due to the rain. (P.S: It was still raining when we reached, this pic was taken much later on).

After a brief rest in the car, we proceeded deeper into Tekapo towards Lake Tekapo Cottages, our lodging for the night.

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Lake Tekapo Cottages houses 7 kinds of self-contained, separate cottages.

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.

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Alhamdulillah it’s SNOWING! Our first snow for the both of us so needless to say we were excited bunnies.

Then Steve showed us the way to our lodge…

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Such a lovely pathway to our cottage which is located just behind that tree…

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.”

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Loving the bright colors and the coziness of this little cottage which was just nice for the both of us.

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.

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Scenery overload… everything’s just so beautiful. SubhanAllah.

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Obligatory couple selfie @ Lake Tekapo!

Nearer to the vicinity of our cottage, lies some of the other different types of cottages housed by Lake Tekapo Cottages.

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The Mina Cottage, which can house one family or a group of friends.
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The Tui Studio Cottage, which suits two persons.

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!

A beautiful flower garden taken care with love by the owner, Amena.
A beautiful flower garden taken care with love by the owner, Amena.
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Red carnations
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White daisies
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Yellow carnations
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Don’t know what flowers these are, possibly petunias or anemones? Love the vivid magenta!
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The door to the garden which is situated just beside the potting shed. Alternatively, you can also enter the garden from the front entrance.

There are even benches and picnic chairs for you to just rest and relax here…

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Such cozy ambience and a relaxing atmosphere amongst the flowers and greenery…

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.Β 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.

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(We did not go into the church, just hung around the vicinity searching for the best spot for gazing at the stars…)

And this is how it looks like when we came, except it was a little cloudy so slightly less bright, but still bright nonetheless.

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Starry, starry night… Makes the sky so bright… Oh what a beautiful night!

(Image source: Telegraph UK)

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.

Next on Kiwimoon: Wonderful Wanaka (Days 5 – 6)

Previous on Kiwimoon: Mesmerizing Milford Sound (Day 3)

Kiwimoon: Mesmerizing Milford Sound (Day 3)

27th February 2014, Thursday

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.

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Good Morning Queenstown central!

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.

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Flocks of sheep crossing the road.. The bus had to stop and let them pass by. It was such a cute sight!
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Yes, those are real. Those clouds. Hubs and me were so mesmerized with the clouds, SubhanAllah.

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.

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Cafe was our shelter from the strong winds at Te Anau, which we quickly discovered upon alighting from our bus.
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The selection of coffee available. One flat white and one hot chocolate please!
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We didn’t order any food since we actually brought along cheese sandwich which we pre-packed before we left.

We soon continued our journey afterwards, and James stopped us along The Milford Road.

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The Milford Road, 119km long, is the most accessible way to experience the scenic grandeur to Milford Sound.
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Here the steep mountain faces are covered with thick vegetation.
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So we took the opportunity to strike a pose with these majestic mountains..

Then another stop at the Mirror Lakes!

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Mirror Lakes is known as one of the world’s heritage site, is a set of lakes that reflects the scenery around it.
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Creative signboard, I must say.
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Stunning mirror effect!
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Back to our bus after a good 15 minutes..

We made another stop along another river, where we can also refill our waterbottles from the glacial waters.

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Even though it’s Summer in NZ, the areas at Fiordland are always cold and windy. I can’t imagine coming here in Winter, brrr…
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How to fill your waterbottles at a river stream? Position your bottle with the current, and not against/opposite the current, so your water does not take in any debris or dirt meant to flow away.
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Beautiful snowcap mountains surrounding us.
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The other side of the river, the rocky road leading us to the fiord…

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!

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Rapid currents of the river creating a spectacular mini waterfall…
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See the color of the water – in magnificent turquoise SubhanAllah!
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The view of the Mitre Peak from here, so near yet so far…
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Back in our bus, where we could see the view of Mitre Peak from our glass-window bus, which means that we’re nearly reaching Milford Sound! Excited!

And finally, we have reached the harbour where we will embark aboard the boat on Milford Sound…

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At Milford Wharf Visitor Centre.
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And that is our boat that will take us aboard the fiord.

Off we go!

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The ticket issued to everyone; already paid for in the tour payment, indicating the date of tour (27 Feb 2014 for us).
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Free flow of coffee and tea available. There is also a small bistro where you can get some pastries and snacks.
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The upper deck of the boat, which is the best place to experience Milford Sound fully with your sights, sounds and senses.
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IMG_8446 It was extremely windy and wet on the upper deck, which is normal as Milford Sound is known as one of the wettest places in the world. It did not rain the day we went, but the weather was really cold and the wind stung my eyes a little. Do be prepared and pack your jackets/windbreakers and gloves along.
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Look at the misty mountains, SubhanAllah… That shows how cold it was out there!
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A fiord is a is a long, narrow inlet with steep sides or cliffs, created by glacial erosion.
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The New Zealand flag~
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It’s amazing how a glacial erosion can result in something so beautiful like this.
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The famous Stirling Falls, a type of “plunge” waterfall which is 151 metres high.
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A close-up of Stirling Falls, which we got to see as our boat went nearer to it. Looking at this, no wonder it is known as the most magnificent waterfall in NZ.
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This is the Palisade Falls, a “ribbon” waterfall with a height of 55 metres. The waterfall is more spectacular after rain, and in dry days it will appear as a thin stream of water.
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Seals frolicking on a rock. Our first time seeing seals up close and personal!
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Go straight and you will reach Australia via the Tasman Sea, which is the marginal sea of the South Pacific Ocean between Australia and NZ. Here, our boat made a u-turn back to the start point of the sound.
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Last but not least, this is the Bowen Falls which is the nearest to the starting point of the sound. Described as the highest and most powerful waterfall in Milford Sound, this “horsetail” waterfall spans a height of 162 metres.
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And we’re back to the harbour, which symbols the end of our 2-hour boat tour along the fiord.

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*)

Next on Kiwimoon: Starry, Starry Lake Tekapo (Day 4)

Previous on Kiwimoon: Exploring Queenstown (Day 1 – 2)

Kiwimoon: Exploring Queenstown (Day 1-2)

25th February 2014, Tuesday

After an overnight flight from Singapore Changi Airport, we arrived at Queenstown International Airport at 3.55 pm.

Outside Queenstown International Airport.
Amazing view greeted us outside Queenstown International Airport.

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.

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Inside the airport, where you can pick up pamphlets and brochures on the many things to do in Queenstown.

Then we proceeded to pick-up our rental car at Ace Rentals, which was just opposite from the airport.

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We still needed a car to get around and for our drive to the surrounding towns.

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.

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Our lodge with a spectacular mountain view.

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!

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Imagine waking up to this every morning… The pine trees remind me of Frodo running in LOTR!

* * *

26th February 2014, Wednesday

We started our day by having a home-made breakfast by the balcony of our lodge.

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A simple breakfast of egg mayo sandwich whipped up by the husband, half-boiled eggs and lemon ginger tea.

Drove to Queenstown central in search of something to do…

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Hotels and apartments all around the centre of Queenstown.

And decided to go up the Skyline Gondola!

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We only rode the gondola and didn’t take the luge. Maybe next time.

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.

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The gondola can fit a maximum of 4 people, but you’re allowed to have your own space if you’re traveling solo or as a couple (instead of sharing with other travelers) which is a good thing because you can have your own privacy.

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!

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An obligatory couple shot is a must… Hehe. A fellow tourist was nice enough to take this photo for us.

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.

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Now this is what I call a restaurant with a view!

Take your time and roam around, take photos while enjoying the spectacular scenery. Another piece of God’s magnificent art, SubhanAllah…

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The gorgeous Lake Wakatipu. #nofilter

We also had a chance to see people enjoying their luge ride down below.

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Would love to ride the luge next time (chey next time seh). It looked so much fun!

We were fortunate to see some paragliding action going on!

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Imagine paragliding overlooking the lake and mountains…

And if you dare, do some bungee…

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Bungee if you dare…

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.

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Nom nom nom. Alhamdulillah for Halal restaurants like these. May God bless the owner’s efforts, InsyaAllah.

After lunch, we took a stroll along the town…

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[For the Singaporeans – Spot something familiar?]
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Leaves turning red for the upcoming Autumn season… So beautiful!

…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.

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According to the map, the climb up and down takes about 1.5 – 2.5 hours. We aimed to hike up till the mid-point, which would bring us to an artist’s sculpture called the “Basket of Dreams”.

We passed by different kinds of terrains during the climb…

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The starting trail of our hike up; slightly open, bright and airy.
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As we hike deeper, the scene changes; enclosed, dark and moody.

Some steep slopes as well…

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Here the trails start to be very open and you start to see the surroundings again.

And finally reached the mid-point!

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Tired but satisfied smiles of victory.
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The husband striking a pose on the Basket of Dreams.

We were greeted by breathtaking views of the lake and its’ surroundings… which made it worth the climb up!

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Pine trees galore…
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And the mountains of Lake Wakatipu in all its glory.
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The differing view at the other side: Mountainous and grassy.

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.

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I hope that hubs and me can be as sporting and as adventurous as them when we reach our golden years, InsyaAllah…

We didn’t continue to the summit but if you would like to, this is the pathway you’d have to follow.

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See that peak point ahead there? That’s the summit, which is about another 500m away.

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.

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Finally back at the start point, where we parked our car.

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.

Next on Kiwimoon: Mesmerizing Milford Sound (Day 3)

The Happy Wanderer goes to New Zealand!

Inspired by Daily Prompt: The Happy Wanderer

Salam and Hello all, I’m back! πŸ™‚

(Did anyone miss me? Haha…)

Let’s see what’s happened during these past couple of months?

Firstly, I got married Alhamdulillah. πŸ™‚

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Yup, that’s my dashingly smart-looking husband in a formal suit during our outdoor photoshoot. πŸ˜€

And then flew to Queenstown, New Zealand for my honeymoon.

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Super LOVE the breathtaking sceneries in Queenstown, New Zealand. I would love to go there again!

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. πŸ™‚