Saturday, February 23, 2008

Weekend in Wanganui via Wellington - Part Three

Car Rental Rant

It does not matter where in the world you are, the price you end up paying for car rental bears little or no resemblance to the price you are quoted.

It's just one of those things in life, like Broadband never being as fast they say it will be, or low-cost flights that double in price once you add "taxes" and other hidden extras.

On arrival at Wellington Airport we visited each of the car rental desks in turn, hoping one would not play these stupid games...

Woz: How much is a Compact Car for 3 days rental and what is the excess.
Them: Its $35 per day and $3000 excess.
Woz: How much to bring that excess down.
Them: $30 to get $200 excess and $10 extra for $0 excess.
Woz: OK, we would like the insurance where we can bring the car back in a small box please.
Them: Ok that is ... pause ... tappity tap on the calculator ... $250
Us: Err, how?

We managed to get our own back for once this time though. We picked up the car the next day and when we went to pay we pretended the lady the day before had said we could get $40 off with our Entertainment Card.

She had said nothing like only that she would see how much she could save, if anything, and that she'd let us know when we picked up the car. However, Aas we stuck firm on our promised $40 discount the the supervisor soon came over and authorised the discount to shut us up. Result!

(Disclaimer: We did not hire a Hertz car! For illustrative purposes only. Photo courtesy of Freaking News - go visit!)


Weekend in Wanganui via Wellington - Part Two

Woz falls in love with a bike...

One exhibit in Te Papa that caught my eye was a race bike made by John Britten, a local engineer/bike racer. The bike is a hand made single minded carbon fibre race bike.

There is a beauty in this sort of single minded simplicity that to the right eyes is just as much art as any painting. Function over form or form dictated by function without any consideration for aesthetics.

The bike was sat next to an open plan cafe. As Helen and I sat drinking a nice Pino Noir we realised it was a man thing. Something that was easy to spot as couple after couple walked up. Normally the male partner leaning in to look closer at the bike and pointing at parts to their partner. The later normally with a "can we please move on" look on their faces.

Helen here - my personal favourite was the "corrugated car", not quite as beautiful!!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Weekend in Wanganui via Wellington - Part One

Valentine's Day in Wellington

Valentine's Day found us in Wellington, capital of New Zealand. It's a quick "up and down", 40 minute flight from Christchurch and it takes us just 40 mins to drive to the airport. So, a jaunt really!

We left a sunny and warm Christchurch and arrived in a cloudy but warm Wellington and caught the shuttle bus to Courtenay Place and walked to our hotel on Cuba Street, and old and renowned eclectic area of Wellington.

Bags dumped, we headed out to Te Papa and the waterfront, we'd been dying to experience the earthquake room (especially after the biggie I experienced while Woz slept a few months ago). Well, it was ok, don't rush to Wellington especially for it!! Woz was entranced by the Britten motorbike as you'll see from his post and I just loved wandering around the museum, it's a great place, and free (donations).

Te Papa Tongarewa
(Museum of New Zealand, Wellington)

After a quick dip in the pool back at the hotel we headed out to explore and find somewhere to eat and drink Val's night away. On a recommendation from our friend Debbie in Wanganui, who we were headed for the next day, we ate at Chow. Great Asian-fusion food, contemporary style and lovely cocktails! *wink*. Woz stuck to a 25 yr old single malt and a beer and I relied on the waitress's cocktail recommendations (boy did she have a lot of recommendations!).

Wearing new girly peep-toe shoes (doh!) and a dress (yes, a dress!) we staggered back to Cuba Street and settled on a cocktail bar I'd spotted earlier. Called S&M's (first clue?!) it was a very masculine and trendy bar (second clue?!), with a great cocktail menu and not much beer (ok, it's getting obvious now isn't it?!).

Further scouting revealed that I was, in fact, one of two women in the entire place - the other NOT being in a dress and who definitely wouldn't be seen in peep-toe shoes.

However, having spent many a great evening in bars of this bias in the past, we stayed and sampled the cocktails and chatted with the clientele and bar staff and had a bloomin' great evening! Met a great guy from the U.K. at the bar when buying drinks who I spent half an hour with doing Little Britain impersonations finishing with "i'm/you're the only straight in the bar" in bad Welsh accents!!

Much amusement was had by watching obviously "lost" groups of lads come in to the bar.. and leave quite quickly...

We headed back to the hotel and had a few more drinks (such a shame room-service insisted Lindauer was champers though *bleeurrrgh*) and an early-ish night as we had to check-out and collect the hire car the next day to drive to Wanganui.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Travel Catch Up

Last September (yes, LAST September!), we explored more of the South Island yet we only managed to post half of the trip on the blog *tsk tsk*.

So, here's a retrospective and brief look at the remainder of the trip.

Wanaka - Te Anau - Milford - Te Anau

After leaving Wanaka we drove to Te Anau via Arrowtown, which took us around 5 or 6 hours at a scenery-gawping pace.
Te Anau was beautiful, and the Top Ten campsite we stayed at pretty luxurious as far as they go! Granite benchtops, chrome appliances and flat screen TV's.

Next day we took the minibus to Milford Sound. The weather was perfect with rain, low cloud and mist that made any colour photograph appear black and white, as below.

Milford Sound (taken from onboard ship)

Milford Sound itself was stunning, as was the long drive from Te Anau to get there. We'd been told that the Sound was best viewed in rain and cloud as the waterfalls would be in their full glory. They were right, the waterfalls were indeed impressive, and I learned that a couple are higher than Niagara Falls, they just don't have the same volume of water. Of course, ever the person who HAS to get as close up and personal as possible, I headed for the bow as the captain shoved it under the torrent of a not-so-high waterfall.

Te Anau - Invercargill

After a night back in Te Anau we drove to Invercargill to visit Kat and Rob. On the way we drove through more dramatic scenery - made more dramatic by the rain which seems to have been ever present since Te Anau.

We stopped off at Gemstone Beach (thanks for the tip Kat!) and explored the bach built in to the cliff and hunted for beautiful stones which lay everwhere.

Onwards to Invercargill and we headed straight for the Burt Monroe exhibition at the museum. We arrived half an hour too late. But... as only Kiwis can do, we were told to wait 5 mins and someone would unlock it and let us in for a quick squizz! Well, that quick lookaround turned into a half hour personal tour! Fab.

After picking up pizzas we headed to Kat's and were given an impromptu tour of an amazing beach near their house where Kat rides her horses. After staying the night at Kat and Bob's great lifestyle block we headed down the road to Bluff.

Hmm... Bluff. The place may well be renowned for its oysters but, hey, what a dump! I hate to diss a place but it really was dreary and shabby. We took the obligatory photo of the signpost and took the road straight out and onwards - our destination, Dunedin.. quick!


The drive through to Dunedin from Invercargill was dreary - the Catlins were obscured by low cloud, mist and rain. We'll have to organise another trip to appreciate the area.

Dunedin is supposed to represent Edinburgh. Having lived in Edinburgh I can safely say that it does have some semblence but nothing of the atmosphere. We preferred Dunedin to Invercargill, and I'm sure that when it's not raining and cold it's a lovely city to live in.

We drove from Dunedin to Port Chalmers and then on to Aramoana. What a beautiful area, rural and coastal, bright green and turquoise everywhere, cute settlements and not a mall in view!

We spent a long while walking on a beach at the end of a track near Aramoana with it's "keyhole" rock and penguin trails. The beach was a bed of tiny shells and fine golden sand, a real gem of a beach. There was absolutely no-one about, bliss.

Back to the car and off to see the famous Moeraki Boulders.