New Zealand is one of the most beautiful locations in the World. It takes more than thirty hours to get there from Europe. I enjoyed this country very much. But as a team of travelers, we f….d it up. The post is on goods and bads of a New Zealand trip. A subjective one. But if you travel there, do not repeat the mistakes we made.
NEW ZEALAND DIARIES. PART FOUR
DAY 7 ROUTE
After the glacier walk, we went to grab a bite before we hit the road to Wanaka, our next stop. In the meantime, the road authorities cleared the roads. The NZ Transport Authority announced it on its web page as we were still on the glacier. The news was good as today morning we were still worried, we would need to take a ring road through Christchurch. The latter meant fifteen hours ride at least.
A shorter route could have meant, in theory, enough time for supper in the early evening, a shower (the hurricane damage made the village we stayed for the night run on auxiliary aggregates, so no warm water was available) and an earlier bedtime after two nights with less than six hours of sleep for most of us.
Only three hours route. In the aftermath, although we departed around 1 pm, we made it only around 9 pm. Twice as much time as planned … Yet again…
STUCK AT THE MIDPOINT
While on Saturday morning, we were walking around a glacier, I have entirely forgotten the outer world.
On the glacier. It looks quite … common and small. But if you look carefully above the horizontal rock formation in the middle, you will see a small black dot above its highest point. A dot is a man.
It was the only kind of catching the momentum experience. The glacier walk was a pleasure. But back down in the village, as I changed and went to grab a bite, I felt a shortage of sleep, I was hungry, and yet again I felt sick.
We are at the midpoint of our New Zealand trip. Up to now, we did something like 2500 km per road. I would say 500 of them were idle ones. Even if the views from the window were amazing. Around 2000 km, we accumulated only within the last four days. We spent altogether thirty, maybe thirty-five hours in the van quite rarely getting out. Only to make some shots. Definitely too much riding. We spent twice as many hours in the van than hours on on-foot sightseeing or making photos at viewpoints. The viewpoints were repeatable. The scenic views, as well. No pre-selection. Just ‘get out. We shall see. If you see something interesting, we stop’ we heard again and yet again.
Five of us seven travelers are plagued with some kind of a virus. Or is it some kind of a cold? Or both? The other one is already coughing. But today and yesterday, against any logics, most of us went to photograph a sunrise. I woke up at five or five-thirty. With no plan. Neither a location selected, nor suitable weather conditions all around us. Sunrise during the hurricane time? A failure. Not a thought behind. Stupidity maybe? Maybe a lack of flexibility? Out of pure boredom, some of the fellows photograph sheep or cows.
During the day-light, we do not rest. Rarely we eat a proper meal. Just junk food, while riding on the van. The chaotic photo sessions at the sunrise cost us too short nights. During the night-time, we lack goodnight sleep. You can live on a shortage of sleep one, two, or three nights. Last year while in Paris, it was partying till one or two a.m. the whole time. But it was Paris. Much to do. No matter the weather conditions. Stationary at one hotel. Many opportunities for indoor and outdoor sightseeing or simply enjoying the time. Nor sports. No activities requiring physical fitness (maybe besides a walk downstairs the Eiffel Tour). Not more than five hours from home door-to-door. The same time zone. Only three-days stay. ‘Rest, you will at home’ rule easily applicable in Paris. But traveling New Zealand is a totally different story.
Our trip schedule in the aftermath is neither a ‘photographic expedition’ as it was initially defined, nor traveling that allows us to get acquainted with the country, nor enjoy the vacation. Even with many photos shot, the final selection will be limited. Too many repeatable shots. Besides nature and only a few outdoor activities, we have nothing in the itinerary that would allow us to get acquainted with the country and people. Not to mention, the country’s history. Even if this is a short one in comparison to the European heritage. For most of us (only two of us, me included, are the exception), the trip uses up almost half of the annual paid leave of absence from work. And … New Zealand is a very comfortable location. Our journey is neither a low-budget traveling, nor we are in the country with poor traveling conditions. New Zealand trip means right lodging conditions and good food; clean restrooms available to everyone. It is a perfect country to actively rest and enjoy life. What we do here is against all of these. Instead of using what the country has to offer, we do the opposite. What we do is not a kind of thing, after which you would come home on a blast of positive energy. (Yes, three weeks after initially writing those words, I can indeed confirm it. I came back home negatively tired …)
The only thought I had at our midpoint day was to go back home, rest, and sometime in the future begin from scratch. We still have five days in New Zealand ahead of us, but it is no longer pleasure.
THE ROAD TO WANAKA
We are yet on another ride heading to the Wanaka lake, where we plan a two-day stay. A technical break. We see the sites where the storm caused the most damage. We realize the main problem on a single road in this part of the mountains was to have to remove fallen trees and soil slides at one site to be able to get with heavy equipment to the other place and so forth. The main reason for which the road was closed for around three days. All soil slides were removed. Eroded roadway patched.
Our most extended stop was somewhere at an ocean beach. We agreed on a half-hour. We stayed there some time longer. For a moment, I observed my fellows taking off their shoes and jumping against the waves cooling their feet in the salty water. I took my camera. Only back home as I looked at the photos more carefully, I saw how tired they all were … For a full week already, we were in a country surrounded by ocean waters. This was, however, the first time we could have felt it. I heard one of my fellows’ silent comments: ‘I would stay here longer.’ Yes, me, too.
The trees around the ocean beach were of a specific shape, contorted by the heavy winds. A view we will see many times yet again on the Southern Island.
The sun was shining. Once or twice, I was bitten by some kind of a fly. Tired, I found a shelter and sat down to hide from the sun. Only back in the van, I felt the itching. That day I put on a white T-shirt with long sleeves and long trousers. They protected most of my body against the bites. In my purse, I had some anti-inflammatory salve. It eased the itching a bit. One of the fellows explained to us that unlike our domestic mosquitos that puncture the skin, the flies here rip it off. Hence the itching is more painful.
We hit the road yet again. We stopped, however, still at some scenic place for an hour or so. The site was full of locals and tourists. Yet back twenty minutes walk through bushes (like those on the photo) to see blue water. The assumption that we may do many beautiful shots here – far-fetched. The only real attraction was to see young people jumping deep down ten or fifteen meters of the bridge into the river. The crowd was too dense to make any clean shots. Tired, I walked back ahead of my fellows, found a path to the riverbed, and sat down on a stone. Yet again, I am at a place I could have stayed longer. Close my eyes and listen to humming waters. But we have to hit the road. Yet again. Yet again, only a glimpse of New Zealand. And maybe two or two and a half hours of window sightseeing. Yet again. No chance for a proper meal. The itching is a nuisance. I feel sick. Yet again. The medicine I took after I got down from the helicopter is no longer working …
Finally, we see Wanaka lake. A kind of blue water difficult to describe. A beautiful place. You might sit down and enjoy by solely looking at it. We talk about a barbecue. But we still have more than one and a half hours to our final location. The road would take us to yet another lake. Afterward to the other side of Wanaka lake, where we rented our house. ‘We still have to drive, afterward set up the barbecue stuff, then make the coal burn. We will not make it before sunset. Let us go to the house and rest. We had a long day.’ We stop for a moment, to make yet another photo. The blue lakes are gorgeous.
On the way to Wanaka
THE FALLING MORAL
Somehow a decision was made to still continue with the barbecue. Some kind of joke that nobody rejected as such. Illogical choice. Five of the seven of us are sick. We cough endlessly. We are in a shortage of sleep. Most of us scratch the itching skin. And yet another barbecue that would last till very late somewhere in the middle of nowhere. We will have enough time for a leisurely barbecue tomorrow. We stay here for two nights … Yes, illogical. But nobody dares to loudly say no. ‘Whom would we harm with saying no? Why the change of mind? Finally, we got to the suggested place. ‘Here under this tree, I had my tent as I was here five years ago.’ My eyes got wide open. ‘Something happened years ago to one of us. Maybe it was a little memory. But does it mean we all need to repeat that yet again under current circumstances? Does it mean we would have the same kind of fun with five of us sick on a shortage of sleep? No, we will not. A textbook mistake an assumption like that.’ My professional appeared in my thoughts.
As we parked our van and got out, it was still before sunset. Theoretically. But we were in the mountains. It was already shadows. It was getting cold. Someone opened the trunk and started to unpack the barbecue stuff. Two fellows went to see the place. After five minutes or so, they came back. ‘It will take too long,’ they said. ‘It is already getting dark.’ With heads down and only half words, the decision was made. We skipped this time…
In yet around twenty minutes, we were at the house we rented. The house turned out to be a very comfortable spacious villa with a big table in the living room … Multiple bedrooms, two fully equipped bathrooms, the washing room, and a backyard with yet another dining table. Fully equipped kitchen adjacent to the living room. All, a tired traveler needs. In silence, with only a few words, everybody contributed to our late supper. The barbecue was set up in the backyard. It turned out into quite a lovely evening. But you could feel it in the air, the moral of our travel fellowship was falling. It was quiet, too quiet …
A TECHNICAL BREAK. CONSIDER AS A THUMB RULE
One of the thumb rules on longer trips with constant changing of locations: stay stationary at least one time for at least two nights. Just a technical break. Always useful. You have a chance to rest. You can wash your clothing and let it dry. Whatever happens during the trip, is it a positive or negative experience, use this time wisely. Advice, any experienced traveler, would give you. I heard it many times. Not every time, while on travel, I needed it. But listening to my friends’ and acquaintances’ various travel experiences, I would give it to anybody. No matter the country. No matter the traveling conditions.
On the second day of our Wanaka stay, three of my sick fellows went to photograph yet another sunrise and later after breakfast on another drive. ‘They do not want to lose time on being seek and on a night of good night sleep. It is like a snowball. The more they do not take care, the sicker we all are’ – another note in my diary. Two of us, me included, skipped entirely. He stayed at the villa, rested, slept out, and in the meantime, made use of the washing machine. One fellow made his own day, sightseeing on foot. The only one of us not sick at all went on the canyoning expedition she booked ahead.
Did we use our technical break wisely? As the next day has shown, unfortunately not.
YET AGAIN LOOKING FOR A DOCTOR
On Monday, with most of us feeling sick, we had to organize our day all around looking for a doctor. Our travel schedule failed. We were supposed to make our day in Queenstown, the very city in New Zealand known for outdoor activities. It is said, even the bungee jumping was invented there. But instead of quickly departing to Queenstown, around 10.15 am, we arrived at the local medical center. Two of our fellows felt that sick that they wanted to see a doctor. It was possible to arrange a visit at 5 pm. Too long time to wait. The new plan was to get to Queenstown and arrange our outdoor day. In the meantime, three of us, a driver, and the sick ones would come back to Wanaka to see a doctor. Not a big problem. The distance from Wanaka to Queenstown is only 70 km. A one-hour drive. But maybe somewhere alongside our road or in Queenstown, we could arrange a visit to a medical center? In the aftermath, we did not come back to Wanaka. Luckily for us, in Queenstown, in the city center, there was a walk-in-clinic. But looking for a doctor cost us multiple changes of plans and a day that was entirely lost.
Was there something we could have done instead? Yes, we could have. On Sunday morning, as I recall around 10 am, we called our insurance company to inform them we needed a doctor. The standard procedure is to call the insurer, and people from the call center arrange the doctor’s visit. No matter the country. The guy from the call center promised to call us back in a half-hour. Neither he did in half-hour nor during the entire day. In Europe, it was 10 pm on a Friday evening. We were given a call after 24 hours that the visit to Wanaka medical center was arranged … for Wednesday. But on Wednesday, we would be hundreds of kilometers away. Hence, we decided to look for a doctor on our own. You could say the insurer’s call center was not professional at all. Yes, it was not.
But exactly a week ago, on a Sunday morning in Auckland, we were in precisely the same position. We called the insurer’s call center. The lady who picked up the call said: ‘I take a note that you need a doctor. Find one on your own. With the time difference and your travel itinerary, this will be the best solution.’ So we did as advised. We lost only two hours of our itinerary in the meantime, taking our first breakfast. The same solution was possible this Sunday in Wanaka in the medical center of the same chain that the one in Auckland. Having arranged a doctor visit on Sunday, we would not have to adjust the Monday plans to looking for a doctor ready to see us on the same day. Mainly that Queenstown has much to offer.
No, we did not use our technical break in Wanaka wisely. And yet again, we spoiled yet another day of our New Zealand trip.
Gorgeous, isn’t it? I made this photo at one of the viewpoints on the road from Wanaka to Queenstown. Instead of focusing on photography and taking time to make shots, we had to hurry up. How fantastic the views were, I realized first as I processed photos weeks later at home.
With cloudy weather, I do not think that any of the shots we did on the road from Wanaka to Queenstown would be a masterpiece. But while looking for a doctor, we visited a place that was not on our itinerary – the historic Arrowtown in the vicinity of Queenstown. The road to Queenstown through Arrowtown cost us only six additional kilometers. The idea was to visit the local doctor and on occasion, sightsee the city. The local medical center turned out to be a surgical center. But at least we were given a hint to try the walk-in clinic in Queenstown.
So we stopped in Arrowtown. I was quite happy about it, as, after the not planned visit at the Collingwood cemetery, I was curious about the New Zealand settlement history. But the decision was made, we stay here only for thirty minutes. The argument: ‘the cars are parking in the main street. No good shots were possible. Besides, we must find a doctor’. Pity, I thought. But it is not a good time to argue. Quickly I went sightseeing in the city center to make at least some shots of the old-style buildings. In the side streets, there were many small coffee shops and restaurants. Yet another place I would stay longer… A place on which I could quickly make a blog entry with photos and some historical facts about New Zealand. Also, a perfect place to sit down and quietly grab a bite. But we had to hit the road.
Finally, close to two pm, we arrived in Queenstown. Found the walk-in clinic. Our two fellows, who truly needed a doctor, were to wait around forty-five minutes for a visit. The remainder of us had to find some other activity. But honestly, what can you do, if your day begins after two pm, even in a place like Queenstown. One of our fellows was to take a jet boat ride. She planned it long before we departed to New Zealand. I was not thinking about that even on the same morning. But with another day filled in with nothing exciting, I quickly made my mind to rescue my day. Yet another fellow decided spontaneously to join us. So, we went to the tourist office to buy us tickets and book seats on a jet boat. The tourist office turned out to be an outdoor entertainment office. The offer was wide. Of things, I would be keen to do while there were, among others, helicopter flights above the fjords and mountains. We bought our tickets. But there was still an hour and a half till we were supposed to come back to the office to be taken by a coach to our jet boat ride.
One and a half-hour. As we joined our fellows in the van, a decision was made to grab a bite in the meantime. One of the fellows wanted to take a gondola ski lift to one of the surrounding mountain tops. Yet another fellow followed him. Me too. Somehow, with no wordy consent, we all bought us tickets. We were at the top after twenty, maybe twenty-five minutes. On a crowded panorama view platform, we took some photos. But we had to come back down to the city center. For a minute or so, I watched people driving go-carts alongside a sled track. If we had only more time … But we had not.
One of the quickly made shots from the mountain. As we spent only short minutes on the platform, and I was drained, I was not putting any attention to what I was photographing. The beauty of the panorama I realized as I was processing the photos at home. In the aftermath, a piece of advice to everybody: Queenstown is an exciting place for outdoor activities, but do not forget to contemplate the views. Of that what we saw or photographed, and it was pretty much most of the country, the Queenstown area was one of the most interesting ones.
I still think twenty-five minutes of fun on a jet boat did not compensate for the time loss we were going through day by day in New Zealand. But the jet boat ride through a canyon was worthwhile. I found myself laughing and squeaking of fun the whole ride.
Taking cameras to the ride was forbidden because of safety reasons, but I managed to photograph the group, who departed before us.
The entrance to the canyon. The whole jet boat ride route was pretty much like this one on the photo.
The next stop is a Mexican restaurant. We were too tired to look for any local food. Even our remaining four fellows, who in the meantime went … shopping. Did I come to New Zealand to eat at a Mexican restaurant? No, I did not. It is half-past seven, and we have still more than two hours ride ahead of us (180 km) till we reach our next motel.
On the way to Te Anau, the views are spectacular. A truly scenic route. An overwhelming one. But it is already getting dark. Photographs would not reflect on what we see. We are tired. Most of the fellows are asleep in the van. We have to hurry up to get to our motel as quickly as possible. We reach it after ten pm. Enough time to sit down and rest for a minute. Take a shower, maybe. Our journey is no longer a pleasure ...
DAY 8 ROUTE
A three and half hour route on day eight. In the aftermath – proper planning. But the wrong organization on the spot made most of us lose another day.