Since my last blog, we've finished up Alex's break and he's gone back to the vessel for his shift. It went so quickly and I just know we'll be coming back to NZ in the future to explore more, as 3 weeks just isn't enough to get everything done comfortably!
For example, we wished we'd had a lot longer in Queenstown or, more specifically, Arrowtown. When we returned to the area (at the end of my last blog) we moved into a lovely, historical cottage in Arrowtown that I had found on Airbnb. I have been craving our own space and some normality so Pittaways Cottage suited us right down to the ground. It was beautiful and had a lovely sitting room filled with Chesterfield furniture and a wood burner, as well as a lovely squishy bed in one of the 2 gorgeous bedrooms. It felt like we had our own home again which is exactly what I was hankering after! Hilary and Graeme, who run the cottage, and the studio cottage at the back of the property, were so welcoming and friendly. I'm jumping ahead chronologically but, on Alex and my “fake anniversary”, we were sitting in the garden (with a bottle of wine and selection of cheeses and antipasti from the winery up the road!) and invited them to join us for a drink…we ended up sitting outside chatting for hours and Hilary split the food she'd been making for the 2 of them so we could join them for dinner! It is indicative of the people in New Zealand: everyone is friendly, welcoming and up for a chat!
Arrowtown itself looks like an 1800s American settler village which is not surprising I suppose, as it was a gold mining town originally. It's gorgeous and so small that you can walk the length of the “high street” in 5 minutes! They have an old fashioned sweetshop, independent grocers and butchers, lovely little restaurants and even a cinema (where, again, you can get wine and local cheese boards!) which we unfortunately didn't have time to go to. Something to save for next time!
While we were there, this time round, Alex did one of the biggest bungy jumps! The bungy was actually invented in Queenstown and both of Alex's jumps were with the company that belongs to the inventor, AJ Hackett. Luckily for me, it cost extra for spectators to come along (as the site was 45 mins outside the town itself) so I was spared the sight of my other half plunging head first into the abyss! Not so luckily for me, he got a video of it so I still had to see it happen…but at least I knew he was safe by then! Haha! Considering I am such a wuss, I don't know how I've ended up with such an adrenaline junky! Opposites certainly attract! 🙂
As I mentioned earlier, we had our “fake anniversary” as Alex will be on the boat on the actual day (18th Feb). Alex organised a beautiful sunrise hot air balloon ride so, at 4.45am, we found ourselves getting ready to be picked up. By 7.30am, we were gliding noiselessly over the Queenstown basin, floating over Lake Hayes, scaring flocks of sheep with the sound of the engine (?) intermittently filling the balloon with more hot air and watching the sun rise over the mountain tops. We were even treated to a champagne and French pastry breakfast upon landing. It was a perfect way to start the day.
We also headed out to the winery area that day, as I had read you can do a wine and cheese tour. We had ordered our cheese hamper and, after having a stunning lunch at Gibbston's Wine Cave, headed off to the other wineries. Unfortunately, the ones we wanted to visit did not allow the cheese hamper…so we decided it'd be even more pleasant to come back to our lovely cottage with a bottle of red we'd sampled over lunch and sit in the garden with the spoils of the hamper.
Warning: the next paragraph will be sickenly mushy and emotional.(sorry Alex!)
I am a very lucky girl to have had two years already with my best friend and other half. It's not every friendship and holiday romance that blossoms into the real deal! Before I had him, I don't believe I would have had the internal strength to do this trip and so I thank you, Alex, for being such a support and such a rock. Here's to forever! I love you.
Back to business: another amazing experience we had in Queenstown was a 2 hour horse ride out by Glenorchy. The scenery was awe inspiring and, in fact, some of it had been featured in the Lord Of The Rings trilogy. You can imagine how exciting it was to amble through that vista on a horse. It was only Alex's 2nd time on a horse and, true to form, he was great! The guides were impressed that his characteristically skittish horse was so relaxed with him that he almost fell asleep on his feet! I was lucky enough to be the only member of the group experienced enough to go for a canter, so I got to break away from the group and get a good run in with one of the guides which was exhilarating in such stunning surroundings.
If you go to Queenstown, we'd also highly recommend paragliding which was beautiful. I was even brave enough to steer myself and my guide for approximately 30 seconds….and then I chickened out! The other incredible activity we made of the most of while in town was the Shotover Jet which is a high speed boat which can drive in 10cm of water. He pilot drove down the canyon at break neck speeds and threw us into 360 turns and narrowly (but expertly) swung us tightly round cliff face edges. It was exhilarating!! It was like a watery roller coaster! Definitely do it if you can!
After bidding a sorrowful goodbye to Queenstown, with promises to return, we made the long drive (stopping the night in a hotel by Lake Tekapo) all the way to Christchurch so we could return our car and Alex could fly out to work. Neither of us had expected the city to still be showing such shocking evidence of the earthquake, nearly 7 years on! We found ourselves in the CBD (central business district….I've only just learned that!) and all around us were shells of buildings with security fencing surrounding them and “no trespassing” signs peppered across the facades. In fact, until we stumbled across the new Re:Start shopping centre, we didn't see anywhere open, really. We were both quite shocked by Christchurch. Having said that, once again the people we spoke to were all friendly and expansive and the Re:Start centre had lots of community activity such as a stage for local musical acts, a market and a selection of artisan food stalls.
Now Alex is back on the vessel and I have returned to hang out with the lovely Caitlin for 10 days before heading to LA on the 18th! It won't be long now until I see my brother for the first time in 8 months, then one of my best friends, Wozzle, and then, in a couple more months, my whole immediate family! I'm so excited to see them all!
Today's blog is dedicated to my darling grandpa, who we lost this time last year. I think about you most days and wish I could tell you everything I've seen and done, Grandpa. I love you.