Monday, December 19, 2016

Itinerary and 12 Unforgettable Moments

In case you are planning to visit New Zealand for 20 days and need a decent reference, very briefly:

Day 1: Queenstown
- Walk around Lake Wakatipu & enjoy The Remarkables
- Queue at the infamous Fergburger (please order the fries with aioli)
- Patagonia Chocolate by the lake
- Discover Taco Medic! (please order: The Stockman and The Ken Tuckyman)
- Gear up for Routeburn track ---> visit DOC and rent trekking equipments

Day 2: Routeburn track day 1
- Catch a glimpse of Glenorchy
- Hit the Routeburn track (Routeburn Shelter to Falls hut)

Day 3: Routeburn track day 2
- Falls Hut to Lake Mackenzie Hut

Day 4: Routeburn track day 3 - Milford Sound
- Lake MacKenzie Hut to The Divide
- Depart to Milford Sound Lodge, have a warm shower and a good night sleep
- The cafe is not bad, you have no other choice anyway

Day 5: Milford Sound - Queenstown
- Cruise through Milford Sound
- Go back to Queenstown via Te Anau

Day 6: Queenstown - Wanaka
- Collect campervan
- Have lunch at Arrowtown (that little Italian restaurant on the main street!)
- Explore Wanaka's lakeside & city centre
- Catch a movie Cinema Paradiso
- Order Risotto from Federal's Diner

Day 7: Wanaka -  Aoraki Mount Cook National Park
- Have breakfast at Kai Whaka-pai
- Discover Lake Pukaki
- Have a meal at Astro Cafe (St John's observatory)
- Enjoy Lake Tekapo & Church of The Good Shepherd
- Reach Mount Cook & set up camp.

Day 8: Aoraki Mount Cook National Park
- Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Center

It was raining all day so we're sort of had to spend day 8 at The Hermitage /  Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Center (not a problem if you like mountains/mountaineering stuff). The original plan was to do Hooker Valley track today & head to Fox Glacier the next day ---> which would take HOURS of drive even though distance-wise, it's very near from Mt. Cook! So we didn't regret cancelling that. Plus, we save 800++ bucks.

Day 9:  Aoraki Mount Cook National Park - Tekapo
- Start Hooker Valley track early
- See Mount Cook and spot some Mount Cook Lilies
- Explore the DOC for good insights about the mountains
- Have lunch at Old Mountaineer cafe if it's open
- See the "Blue" lake and what's left of Tasman Glacier

Because we cancelled Fox Glacier and decided to just head to Christchurch, we had to go back to Tekapo (haha). But the lakeview holiday park was nice and we got to stargaze (Tekapo is a dark sky reserve).

Day 10: Tekapo - Christchurch
- Head to Christchurch
- Explore Cathedral square
- Re-Start mall
- Cardboard / Transitional Cathedral
- 185 Empty White Chair memorial

Day 11: Christchurch
- Go to iSite to buy Christchurch combo
- Go punting at the Avon
- Christchurch Botanic Gardens (which is awesome)
- Explore the city with tram
- Please do not eat Fiddlestick

Day 12: Christchurch, Akaroa & Banks Peninsula
- Fish and Chips from Akaroa Best Fish n Chips (duh)
- Board a boat to see Hector's dolphins
- Explore the city, Akaroa Museum
- See cheesemaker at Barrys Bay Cheese
- Stop by at Governor's bay
- Dine at Roots, Lyttelton

Day 13: Christchurch - Kaikoura - Bleinheim
- Drive to Kaikoura (2,5 hours)
- Whale Watching at 12.45PM (3++ hours) - Head to Blenheim
- Eat seafood at Kaikoura BBQ & Nin's bin
- Head to Blenheim, stay at Olde Mill House (actually if you can reach early, this BnB will also lend you bicycles for free ---> to cycle to wineries)

Day 14: Blenheim - Wellington
- Cross to the north with Interislander
- Spend hours at TePapa
- Walk along Cuba St (try Loretta and kafe eis)

Day 15 :Wellington
- Take the cable car up and walk down through Botanic Gardens
- See Old St Paul's
- Visit iSite for complete info and free wifi
- Have a meal at Fidel's
- Try a cup of coffee at The Flight coffee Hangar!
- Please go to Zealandia (we did not)

Day 16 :Wellington - Rivendell - Palmerston North
- Head to Rivendell and explore. Great ability to imagine is required.
- Spend a night at Palmerston North

Day 17: Palmerston North - Taupo
- Aratiatia Rapids
- Huka Falls
- Take a look at the free thermal swimming hole (and return to your car)
- Try the thermal bath in a more private place

Day 18: Taupo - Waitomo - Matamata
- Visit Craters of the Moon
- Have a meal at the coolest McD in the world
- Head to Waitomo to do 45 mins Waitomo Caves, Glow worm tour
- Head to Matamata, explore the town center (it's apparently a nice small town to explore)
- Stay at Marion & Ernie's AirBnB (highly recommended)

Day 19: Waitomo - Hobbiton - Auckland
- Do the earliest Hobbiton tour
- Head to Auckland, explore city center
- Britomart, the harbour, and Queen street

Day 20: Auckland - Singapore
- Explore the neighbourhoods: Ponsonby, Domain Wintergardens
- Walk around Cornwall park and climb to One Tree Hill

And over the span of 20 happy days I pull out 12 moments that I deem distinguishably unforgettable.
Note: Unforgettable is not necessarily pleasant. They are:

12. Scenic Flight
So we touched down in Auckland only to have around 4-ish hours of sleep because we had to catch a flight to Queenstown the next early morning.

Up in the air, the husband slowly dived into deep sleep and I had no choice but to look out the window because I'm not a very talented sleeper. The thing is, God gave us an appetizer:

I didn't know if I should:
a) Interfere with the deep sleep, which can cause prolonged fitness and emotional problem. But, but. Might be worth it.
b) Be quiet and continue life with a fresh-looking happy husband who won't ever find out what he just missed.

Whatever choice I made, I hope he's happy with the outcome.

(Well, I tapped his hand and he woke up shocked, thinking we're still in the hotel and we missed this flight).

11. Olde Mill House
All we knew was it's the only accomodation that combines BnB and bike hire to wineries (which is already enough to win us over), but we had no idea the house looked like this:

Everyone will have to hike through this garden to reach the house :)

Plus, a thermal pool and nice homemade jam for breakfast!

10. Cinema Paradiso
So we had a romantic Friday Nite date with Benedict Cumberbatch in this cinema

9. Cry-fish
He wanted to eat crayfish, Kaikoura's go-to food (even the town is named after it). They apparently (and disappointingly) costs around 80 bucks each, which can easily feed a village in Indonesia, or fund few sushi buffets in Singapore. So with heavy hearts, we decided to order clams for him and fries for me instead.

We had to eat those in front of three Chinese tourists who were having crayfish fiesta.

Cinderella only could watch the ball from the attic's window
They probably ordered too much that one of them gave feed the crayfish to birds! (followed by koko's silent cry screaming "why do you have to do thaaaaat? why birds??? why not me???).

8. ASIAN FOOD in the Southernmost Hemisphere!!!
Not bad, technically, I gave up ONLY on day 10. That means I survived 9 DAYS without sexy fluffy white rice yow.

Unforgettable moment 8a. Vietnamese Pho, Palmerston North.

Unforgettable moment 8b. Thanking God for the Chinese food, Matamata.

7. The Bluest of Them All.
I had seen postcards of Lake Tekapo before. Man, it is blue.
But on the way there we bumped into Lake Pukaki. And man, it is BLUE.

We were curious why these beautiful flowers called Lupines (which apparently are a kind of weed) flourish in this region but too lazy to do research. So if someone finds out why please leave a comment below this page.

These gottabe the most beautiful weed out there.

6. The not so-far-journey to Lake Mackenzie Hut.
This one is actually more an inside story. It was the 2nd day of Routeburn Track, the longest, the wettest, the most memorable, involving rain, snow, dirty shoes, wet clothes, and wet socks (ewww).

LSS, we reached the point somewhere in the semi-wilderness where I could barely walk anymore. My soles were aching and there's no signs of the next hut. And there from an altitude we saw something that resembles a hut faaaar faaaar faaaaaar away. And he shouted "there it is! we're so close!" when I was praying that it was NOT the hut. It was just someone's villa. The hut got to be somewhere very close, covered by the bushes.

Well sadly it was the hut. And the only way to reach was to carry on. He kept saying something that sounded very much like "go on, we're so close," where deep down I knew it's a bloody lie.

See the white arrow. THAT. is the hut.

Me looking down in disbelief.

Anyway when we reached the bottom of the mountain he said, "look, we were there," pointing the mountaintop where we first spotted the hut. "Now we're here. We were so faaar away, now we're so close,"

I was so angry when he said that. Remember back there he clearly said "we're so close?"

And that's not even true, we still had to walk through the forest, with possibilities of meeting evil wizards, poisonous apples, knight in shining armour, or shrek.

The forest was extremely enchanting tho, really looked like the ones we see in fairy tale books. Just that the princess was extremely angry.

5.  Sperm Whales and Hector's dolphins.
So koko planned how this year's November 10th is going to go. After the best fish 'n chips I've ever tasted (not sure if he agrees), he took me to see the smallest and rarest dolphins in the planet! And 2 days later we went back to the oceans to see sperm whales :)

4. The Chronicle of a Mighty Campervan
First of all, it's a MIGHTY campervan okay. So let's expect the vehicle to live up to its name.

To me the idea of campervaning is both charming and terrifying (because campervan is a giant confusing machine, know, which tank for what, what button is this for, how to operate this and that, thank God I have a husband). First few minutes were confusing but we (he) got the hang of it. Then the journey started to be pleasantly unforgettable: learning how campsites work, surviving the first night, trying the shower, cooking in the campervan, and so on. Of course there were parts that are a little bit less-glam, like emptying the portable toilet, but once again, thank God I have a husband.

The machine showed signs of rebel few times, some indicators on the dashboard flashed red, sometimes the engine refused to start, but we sort of ignored it.

It was the day when we're supposed to head to Christchurch and return the campervan. We stopped by a gas station in a town called Fairlie looking for a place where we can refill the LPG gas. The engine refused to start again, this time for real.

LSS, the Mighty campervan, the husband and I, head to Christchurch in a dusty truck. With a driver who was not so easy to understand and a dog.

But we didn't have to refill the LPG gas, only paid half of the fuel, and got a free ride to the hotel! And only then we understood why God let the rain to fall for the whole day when we were in Mt. Cook (so we had to cancel Fox Glacier), or else we would be in the remote Mt. Cook when this happened. Meaning, it would take hours for anyone to reach us.

3. Chef's Table Experience
Koko ganteng planned an unforgettable birthday dinner in a charming little town called Lyttleton.

We've been hooked by Netflix' Chef's Table these few months and we wanted to experience something like that one day but there's no way I will eat something alien. It would be such a delight if everything on the table is made of leaves.

Koko arranged an all-vegetarian night for me :) + he remembered the cake!

We were pretty disappointed when the waitress said "you can only eat the green one"

I accidentally ate Paua! I thought it was seaweed...

2. 2016 Earthquake
If we didn't see what happened to Christchurch before that, maybe we would deem the experience as "amusing".

But we went to a museum dedicated to the earthquake few days prior, we saw how dead the city became, we read the story of how a building collapsed instantly killing 111 people inside, and we visited an eerie memorial facing the site of that building.

Read about this heartbreaking memorial here

Then we moved on, we crossed to the north leaving all the gloom behind, to meet Wellington that is so alive. Yes there's a section in Wellington's museum TePaPa talking about how scary an earthquake can be (thank you very much), and there were stickers in some buildings marking that they are not quake-safe, but after that we forgot all about it because we're to busy exploring the city's bagels, brunches, coffees, and Thai food.

So when we woke up in the middle of the night to a shaken ground (or shaken 5th floor), we were in disbelief that this is really happening again.

I tried to think straight:
- Should we do what we were taught to do when we were young, hide under the table.
- or Should we follow the relatively new Triangle of Life theory, hide beside a sofa.

For some reasons the civil engineer thought about holding on the balcony's railings (can you explain that to me again sayang? all the reasons I can think of just don't make sense)

It's so funny that my first reaction after we managed to get out from the bed (which supposed to be running down the stairs to get out from the building) was to pee. Then we ran outside.

We spent few hours in the cold because there were still aftershocks, walking around to see whether there are damages or just to see how people reacted. New Zealanders seemed to be very used to it, most of them just gathered around and chit-chat, made fun of the fallen mannequins (see image below), or went to McDonald's.

We *tried to* sleep in the hotel lobby for the rest of the night because the aftershocks just did not stop

*korban gempa* 

But after we saw the news from the newspapers and TV, we realised how God saved us and how close we were from disaster. The town that was hit the most was Kaikoura, where we were 2 days before to see sperm whales. If we were there during the earthquake, not only we were in great danger, but all access to and from the town. Even that the ferry that brought us from south to north island was non-operational for few days because the terminal dock was broken. Every news we heard made us realise how God protected us in every step we took.

Psalm 91.

1. Taupo's Aratiatia

4 times a day (and 3 in winter), they will release tonnes of water from Aratiatia dam into the rapid. So  that still, peaceful water will turn into a massive rapid within few seconds. After 15 minutes, it will  slowly be quiet again. Doesn't that sound magical already?