Zesty Mumma's Words

A life lived without passion is a life half lived

Archive for the tag “milford soud”

Functional Dysfunctionality – Families Where Would We Be Without Them

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Families are complex and I don’t think there are many people  on the planet would disagree with that. Just navigating the intricate labyrinth of internal relationships can be a mine field and can make your mind bleed at the same time; brother sister, mother daughter, husband wife, father son, then lets add aunts, uncles etc etc to the mix. I believe that most of our families work on the basis of functional disfunctionality.

Which brings me to my mother, Monica, a spritely impish woman in her seventies. She is incredibly active, still playing tennis and riding her pushbike many times a week, looking after grandchildren and great grandchildren on a regular basis and walking everywhere she can. Born during the Second World War she lost her father while he was a soldier in the British army. Her mother, having four children, had to find work and placed three of those children in an orphanage. Like so many of the children of that time loss was just part of her life and just like the English do so well, she just got on with life.

As you would imagine security to my mother is a very important thing. She doesn’t understand the waste she sees constantly in society today. People have far more disposable income than ever before but use it far less wisely. I tell you all this to explain what happened on my first trip to New Zealand and Queenstown in particular.

Even before we left Australia, in the planning stages of our trip, my mother told me that the main thing she wanted to do was visit Milford Sound. It wasn’t a trip I had envisioned for myself but as the tour guide I knew I would have to find out a little bit about about it. The first part of that trip saw us spend ten days in the North Island before taking the ferry to Picton. We stayed in Wellington for a few days, where I picked up some brochures. When I read the price of the trip I knew I would have to be skilful when breaking this news to my mother. After dinner the night before we left I sat down next to Monica, who was happily watching the television, drinking a cup of tea and nibbling on chocolate, perfect I thought, her heaven.

“So mum” I say, carefully as you go, “I’ve been looking up about your trip to Milford Sound”.

“Yes,” I could tell by her tone she was excited; phew I thought this is going to be easy.

“Well from what I can see, you take a bus from Queenstown all the way to Milford then on to a boat ……” I went through the whole scenario with her.

“This trip here” I held up the first brochure. “Is $159 NZ” I heard a squeak come out of her mouth but I ignored it thinking I could finish her off with my secret weapon.

“But look at this one, it’s on special for $144,” who could argue with that I thought. Monica that’s who, I think she nearly had a coronary.

“Oh that’s too much I can’t afford that,” Mind you this is the same woman that wouldn’t hesitate to buy a $200 dress if she really wanted it.

Eventually I had to let it go cause there was just no reasoning with her and the argument was getting heated. Even the fact our exchange rate at that time gave us $1.25 NZ for every $1.00 AU, could not sway her.

On the South Island things calmed down and I didn’t mention the trip to Milford again. A couple of days before we arrived in Queenstown out of the blue my mother says.

“I think I will do the trip to Milford Sound, I was just being silly.” I remained calm; I’d kind of expected this about face. Generally it is just the unexpected that people react to, when their brain has time to process the information they’re usually ok. So I didn’t say too much, not wanting to gloat.

“That’s good mum, I know you’ll enjoy it”.

“We’ll see,” she said ominously.

The day we arrived in Queenstown was a cool day, so once mum was settled with her cup of tea I went to reception to use the Internet. Deciding that I probably needed to book the trip to Milford while I was there I made it for Tuesday, two days away.

When I got back to our accommodation mum had found a couple of young backpackers to talk to so she was in a great mood.

Waiting till we were alone I said in the brightest voice possible, “ I booked our trip to Milford Sound.”

Monica nearly choked on the marmalade toast she was eating, “what did you do that for, I can’t afford that.” She proceeded to huff and puff, working herself into lather. I thought at that moment that my mother might have been suffering from either Alzheimer’s disease or Schizophrenia.

It was my turn to “WHAT” her.

“Excuse me. Didn’t you tell me the other day that you had changed you mind and wanted to go”?

“Oh, you shouldn’t listen to me,” to say I was flabbergasted at that moment was an understatement.

I won’t bore you with anymore details; needless to say it was very tense for a while. I did take the trip to Milford and had an amazing time, while my mother stayed in Queenstown. As I say families are not for the faint hearted, you possibly may need a PHD to understand them.

Haast and Beyond, with Whitebait for Sustenance

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Heading south to Haast, the last outpost on the West Coast, you realise just how stoic the early European settlers must have been to eek out a farming existence in that verdant land. The bush closes in thickly around you at times and the ever present, misty rain implies a prehistoric past that is still very much present. This trip was my second on that road and no different the first time I travelled it.

Whitebait is a delicacy you may not have heard about but is so important to nearly every New Zealander that a love of them is almost a prerequisite for citizenship. What is it I hear you ask, actually Whitebait are tiny little fish, much smaller that sardines with a gigantic head (in comparison to their body). Every single kiwi I have met has at least one story about going “whitebaiting” when they were young, much increasing its legendary status. As you approach Haast a small hand written sign on the side of the road advertising whitebait fritters can be seen, make sure you stop. The fritters are a simple affair, prepared and cooked on a make shift bench in front of you and consist of beaten eggs, whitebait, salt and pepper, buttered bread and sauce if you want but well worth it.

South of Haast is the truly wild New Zealand, Milford Sound, Doubtful Sound and onto Antarctica. The main road turns east at this point and heads up and over the Alps. If you don’t have a convoy of Motorhomes breathing down upon you make sure at some point you stop on the side of the road to marvel, slack jawed at the beauty you are heading toward. It is scenery that no amount of words I could ever say would do justice to.

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This road will take you all the way to Wanaka and on to Queenstown, it is quite narrow in places but that is never a problem because there just isn’t that much traffic. Once you are over the top it follows a route around amazing blue lakes. This is sheep country and very high so the vegetation is sparse. This trip we chose to keep going through to Queenstown but Wanaka is a nice little town with lots of accommodation. Both towns are quite modern and generally busy in all seasons. Winter bringing the skiers and late spring, summer and early autumn the travelling tourists.

It takes about an hour to get to Queenstown from Wanaka along the highest public road in the country. Just before you begin your decent into Queenstown you come upon gravel clearing on the side of the road. Make sure you stop at that spot, the view looking down the valley and into Queenstown is a must see. Late snow was still clinging to the hills around the valley on my first trip but this time it was late summer so it had all melted, still beautiful but the snow made it spectacular.

 

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It is a 300 km bus trip to Milford Sound from Queenstown and I took it the first time I was there. Unfortunately, the only trouble with that is if you’re on a bus tour you have to take 300km trip home that day as well. Actually I am only joking when I say unfortunately because the trip there was nearly as good as seeing the Sound. After Te Arnau the road takes you through vast empty valleys that had once been farmland but are now part of the National Park. The drivers are well trained and have lots of interesting local knowledge to bring the trip to life. It makes it a long day but not one you would regret. To get down to Milford you have to pass through a long tunnel. If you are a nervous driver you would be best to take a bus trip like me. I’m not a nervous driver but I was very glad I went on the bus.

My favourite thing in Queenstown is the botanic garden. After you walk through the garden there is lovely little French café down on the lake that finishes off the visit nicely. The walk up Queenstown Hill is also great. It starts at the end of some extremely steep streets but becomes less so once you are up about a third of the way.

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Arrowtown is a quaint little town about 5 km from Queenstown, It is renowned for cute little stone cottages and other old buildings but it is heavily commercialised and really not my cup of tea. Having said that I had a venison pie at the local bakery was the best pie I have ever tasted.

 

Tips

  • Top up your petrol take at Haast.
  • Try Pine Lodge for budget accommodation. The room I had on my first visit was spotlessly clean. I booked it on a last minute booking website and managed to get a twin room for four nights for $200 NZ.
  • There are two supermarkets in Queenstown – a smaller one right at the end of Shotover Street in the CBD. The second, a large New World, is just a few blocks over, just out of the CBD.
  • Unless you know you have a bargain I wouldn’t really buy any souvenirs in Queenstown, very overpriced and all made in China.
  • The bus trip to Milford costs around $150 NZ

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