We arrived in Wanaka on Good Friday. It was extremely busy as there was an air show on in addition to it being a long weekend.
We arrived late afternoon, and after sitting on the lake with an ice cream, enjoying the sunset and a few planes flying by, I went to the cinema. You may think it’s a bit odd to go to the cinema on my one night in Wanaka, and on a Friday night as well, but this isn’t any old cinema. This is Cinema Paradiso, which gets a decent mention in my Lonely Planet. The cinema has sofas, and there is an intermission about an hour into the film where you can buy freshly baked cookies.
Another reason for going to the cinema instead of sampling the local nightlife is that you basically cannot buy alcohol in New Zealand on Good Friday or Easter Sunday (there are some loopholes along the lines of staying in a hotel and buying a meal at the hotel restaurant allows you to buy one drink). Not that I’m an alcoholic or anything, but being away from home gets me in the holiday spirit, and being on holiday means drinking most day. I’ve been on ‘holiday’ for 3 months now so probably could do with a few days off the booze.
Anyway, the next morning I woke early and was out of the hostel and wandering around town at 8.30am. Wanaka is a really nice little town, kinda like Queenstown but with a more laid back vibe. Probably should have spent another night here in hindsight, but nevermind. The bus left at 9.45am to take us to Puzzling World, just outside Wanaka. Puzzling World has loads of illusions and a giant maze, and is kinda cool. They had a wall of hollow Einstein masks, but your eyes trick you into thinking you are looking at the outside of the mask instead of the inside. I promise you that all these are the hollow inside.
We left Puzzling World at about 11.30am and set off for Queenstown, self styled ‘adventure capital of the world’. We stopped off at Kawarau Bridge, home of the world’s first commercial bungy jump. We watched a few people jump, but no one from our bus did it. We also watched a short film on how bungy jumping was invented and became commercialised.
We arrived in Queenstown mid-afternoon, and my first task was to go in search of a new pair of walking boots after mine started taking on water from underneath in Franz Josef. With my new boots acquired, I had a walk around the lakefront, and through a local craft market. In the evening we had a boat trip on Lake Wakatipu with a burger and a free drink whilst watching the sunset. It was pretty spectacular to say the least:
I arrived in Dunedin around lunchtime on Easter Sunday, and to say it was quiet was a bit of an understatement. Not a lot was open and there were very few people about. After a little walk around to get my bearings, I retreated back to the hostel to do some much needed laundry. Cheapest so far, only $2 for a wash.
As it was so quiet, and there was little else to do in the evening, I went to the only thing open – the cinema. I’ll be turning into a film buff at this rate! This time it was My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, which I found surprisingly poignant.
Easter Monday was back to something approaching normality. Things were open so I was out of the hostel mid morning to see what Dunedin had to offer. First up, the Chinese Gardens. It turns out that the Chinese have a longish history with Dunedin following the gold rush in the 1800s, and there is a decent sized Chinese population in this area.
The gardens were opened in 2008 (i think, I don’t remember them being here in 2004), and are very tranquil and peaceful.
Next, I went to the Otago Settlers Museum, which was an interesting look at how various peoples settled in Dunedin and Otago, including the Maori, and the Scottish. Dunedin has a strong Scottish heritage, which is patently evident from walking around the city. It definitely felt like I was in a city in northern Britain. They even have a statue of Robert Burns in the city centre.
Next up was a tour around Cadbury World, and more free chocolate than I could shake a stick at. British people – be warned that Cadburys chocolate tastes weird in Oz and NZ. They put extra ingredients in to stop it melting in the heat.
The next day I went to the Botanical Gardens, and had a nice long walk around there.
In the afternoon I went to the Otago Museum, which had quite a few exhibits including some personal possessions belonging to Sir Edmund Hillary from the first successful ascent of Everest.
I then had a quick look around Dunedin Art Gallery in the hope that the more I look at art, the more I might ‘get’ it.
After a long day walking around in my new boots, it was time to put my feet up in the evening.
I had one final morning in Dunedin before getting the bus back to Queenstown. I spent most of the morning searching for eye cream and consuming vast quantities of my new favourite drink – chai latte.
After a seemingly never-ending bus journey back to Queenstown, I arrived back at around 7pm, and am bracing myself for another early start as we head to Milford Sound.