For our last full day in New Zealand, we went for a drive up to Wanaka via the Crown Range Road. To say that this is a fun drive would be an understatement, it winds its way up a hill to a nice lookout where you can see very far (I will post a panorama of this view in a later post). Then winds its way back down to the small town of Cardrona before making its way to Wanaka.
This is where I have to apologise because we arrived at lunch time and the sun was quite high and bright, and for some reason I decided not to take any pictures at all! So I have no pictures of the beautiful lake and the view to Mount Aspiring, honestly no idea what I was thinking (I think I was thinking we’d be back later in the evening with better light, or hopefully some clouds).
We didn’t end up doing much other than a short stroll along the lake side and lunch from a bakery. Oscar had some fun at the local playground but otherwise we didn’t really see anything locally. After lunch we went for a drive to see if there was something nice to look at, the sign at the entrance to town said Glendhu Bay, so we went in that direction hoping for something nice. We drove past Roys Peak which was really busy, looked like a good walk (and now that I googled it, looks like something to do in future for sure).
We got to Glendhu Bay but didn’t see much other than a lot of camper vans. There was a sign that went off road to Motatipu Gorge so we thought, let’s just drive up there and see what it is.
As soon as we turned off the main road it became gravel, and then dirt road, so the 6km drive ended up taking about 20 minutes to reach the end of the road. There’s a walking track there that follows the river, but we just went down and had a little look before leaving and driving back to Queenstown. It’s funny, this was a bit of a random venture and I realised once we got out of the car that I came to this same place ten years ago and probably came to the same conclusion then. At least this time I had a camera with more functions allowing me to take a picture that I could be happy with.
[Update]: Forgot to mention that there are some seriously nasty mosquitoes along this river/stream, my top was not covering my back near my waist, and I ended up with four or five bites on my back, plus two more on my wrist. They were really itchy bites too, damn, it wasn’t that warm, but they must be alpine mozzies or something.
So back to Queenstown but this time rather than going over the Crown Range Road again we went the other way via Cromwell. We stopped at Lake Dunstan which has a beautiful mirror effect (if the water is still enough) but it was a bit late by the time I was finished there so we carried on back to Queenstown from there. We also stopped at the Roaring Meg lookout which I might post a picture of in a later post (HDR). It was not the nicest drive back to Queenstown from there as the sun was setting and pretty much blinding us although driving through that canyon is quite cool.
So for our last proper meal in Queenstown we went with seafood, and Fishbone was our choice. It’s quite expensive if you’re just after fish and chips so probably not the place to go for that, but there was plenty of variety for seafood. Emmy was really after mussels so she ended up going for the fish stew, and I went with one of the recommended specials, lemon sole.
My fish was quite good, the lemon giving it a good little zest, the fish stew came with some nice crusty bread, and I’m sure it was quite good too. Oscar was getting to be a real pain at dinner times by this time of the trip so we pretty much ended up getting out as quickly as possible. I’d recommend this place for seafood if you get that craving in Queenstown. Our last day in Queenstown next, where we didn’t do a lot, but still managed to try out a few functions on my camera.
We had some good weather to end our trip, and for the first of these nice days, we headed for Arrowtown, just a 20 minute drive from Queenstown. It’s an historic gold mining town and is known for its spectacular Autumn colours. There are also a lot of little shops to keep the ladies interested, as well as a museum where you can learn about the history of the area. There are a few walking trails out the back of the town where you can really enjoy the Autumn colours, and I guess it can be called a river, although it’s quite shallow (I wouldn’t cross it in sneakers though).
Before doing anything, we made our way to The Chop Shop for breakfast since Emmy didn’t have anything and us boyd only had some corn flakes earlier. It was okay, but nothing special, I had scrambled eggs, Emmy had the special corn fritters (spicy caramel was a bit sweet still), and Oscar had some kind of super ridiculously sweet babycino. I’d already had a bit for breakfast so I just went for something simple so as not to spoil my appetite for lunch.
The museum is really quite interesting (especially for me being of Chinese descent), I think it’s built into an original town building and you can see a lot of the historical tools that were used, as well as learn about the Chinese “invasion” that occurred during the gold rush. That was our morning, looking at some shops and then the museum.
We had lunch at the Arrowtown bakery (as a money saving move), turned out to be a good idea as the food was reasonably priced and tasty. I had the mince and cheese pie (pie, peas, potato deal) that comes with peas and mashed potatoes with gravy. It wasn’t my first choice but they seemed to be having a shortage at the time. After that, it was time to enjoy some Autumn colours, along the way we wandered through the historic Chinese settlement (restored) to see how these gold seekers lived, must’ve been hard that’s for sure.
We wandered back along the trail and along the river but turned out that we were on the wrong side of the stream, so we couldn’t get back to the car park without getting our feet wet. So we had to stroll back and around the stream before we could head off.
It was a bit too late to visit Cromwell as I had originally thought might be possible, so instead we stopped by Lake Hayes and then again at one of the stopping points along the Glenorchy-Queenstown Road to shoot the Remarkables at sunset. Lake Hayes was a bit random, but we were driving back to Queenstown and drove past this lake, and the sun was shining, and the clouds were whisping (?), so I decided that it might be worthwhile, turns out it was, the mountains around the lake make for some breathtaking views, and it’s only 15 minutes from Queenstown on the way back from Arrowtown.
We finished off the day by having dinner at Bombay Palace which is down the bottom of the main road (Shotover St) clustered with a few other Indian restaurants. It’s a chain (since we saw one in Wanaka too), and it was the only Indian restaurant in that section that didn’t have a tout out the front. Won us over already (also had more people eating than the other places), I had the lamb vindaloo, and Emmy had the chicken tikka masala (so that Oscar could have some if he felt like it).
I was happy with mine, ordered it hot (not Indian hot) and it was just the right spice level, flavour was good (comparable to Tandoori Den LOL) and the lamb was tender. The service was good and the restaurant comfortable, so two thumbs up from me.
Next up, we visit Wanaka.
A dreary morning that we spent in town looking at art galleries was followed by a short drive up to Glenorchy, which turned out to be one of the real highlights of our trip. So having read the forecast correctly this time, we decided to stay in Queenstown and visit some of the local galleries and check out the local artwork in the morning. There are a quite a number of galleries with varying types of works, we mostly looked at paintings and photos, but there were some sculptures mixed in too. We had fish and chips at the local Erik’s Fish and Chips before driving up to Glenorchy in the afternoon.
Stopping several times along the windy Glenorchy-Queenstown Road to take in the beautiful views before arriving in Glenorchy about an hour later, it’s definitely one of the best drives you’ll find. I’d rate it above the Great Ocean Road based on scenery for sure. We visited Mrs. Woollys General Store to see what they had in stock, and fortunately for us (Oscar having discovered the fun of jumping in puddles earlier that day) we managed to find a pair of gumboots just the right size for him.
After that little bit of shopping we went down to the pier and the lagoon to take some more photos of the beautiful scenery around. What a picturesque little town, and we didn’t even visit the Glenorchy Animal Experience (which is a place to visit farm animals for the kids), I think we’d definitely visit again next time. The clouds were a bit too thick while we were there so I couldn’t take the exact pictures I wanted, but got some good stuff nonetheless. Before heading back to Queenstown we visited Mrs. Woollys General Store again for some hot chocolate, the spicy hot choc is two thumbs up!
After getting back, Emmy was feeling like steak (unbelievable I know) so we went to a reasonably priced steak house, Flame Grill, found on tripadvisor. The ribs were recommended so I went with that since Emmy was feeling like steak, she had the rib-eye. Both good choices, the steak was cooked medium rare just right, and the ribs were flavourful without being salty. We got a serve of grilled cheesy portobello mushrooms for Oscar which was quite a big serve. Definitely a recommend.
Next up, Arrowtown.
A train and bus ride from Kyoto (via Mishima) with a bit of a rush at Mishima station to get the Fujikyu bus to Kawaguchi-ko, and even before stopping at Fuji-Q Highlands (second last stop) or Yamanaka-ko (last stop before Kawaguchi-ko), it appeared. Mount Fuji emerged from behind the clouds and presented itself in the most brilliant of bus ride views. We probably ended up with 36 views of Mount Fuji as we drove around the lakes toward Kawaguchi-ko.
Definitely some pretty clear views that afternoon and with some dramatic clouds as well, I only managed one shot at the bus stop before we headed to our accommodation, 15 minutes downhill walk, by the time we got there though Fuji-san was hiding again. Never mind, we’ll see you again later, and if not, we at least got some good views on the bus.
After settling in, and checking the forecast for the next few days, it was almost certainly going to be an overcast day with no views of Fuji-san the next day, but clear for the two days after.
With overcast skies and no real chance of the sun clearing the clouds out of the way we decided to wander over to Kawaguchi-ko and have a look around. Beautiful red leaves were abound by the lake, and Mount Kachi Kachi was starting to show some Autumn colour as well, although still mostly green. We didn’t get too far before it was time for lunch (hoto fudo, more on that later), and then after that the oldies went and took some pictures in a nice leafy Autumn spot (with coloured leaves fallen to the ground) while we went back to the hostel and a nap.
I managed to get back out to Ohashi bridge just before sunset to hopefully capture something of Mount Fuji, I caught a glimpse of the cone but by the time I snapped the shot it was clouded over again. So instead I shifted my attention to the road, traffic, and the colours of the hills behind. Got a pretty nice shot, would’ve been nicer if it was a bit darker but then I suppose I wouldn’t have captured any of the colours in the background.
We signed ourselves up for the hostel day tour around the five lakes area the next day, so that will be coming up in the next post. The picture to the right gives a glimpse of the weather to come, that was the next morning, so definitely cleared up for our day trip but that’s for the next post. Kawaguchi-ko is a great destination and I definitely love going there and I have no doubt that I’ll be there again, but you’ll see for yourself in the next couple of posts.
The scenic highlight of the trip had finally arrived, we were going to the mountains, where all of our landscape photography dreams would come true, or at least we’d see some nice scenery with mountains. I didn’t realise beforehand how long it took to cover the entire route and it was fortunate that we actually researched it a bit more thoroughly the night before. We ended up waking up at about 6am so that we could get ourselves prepared to leave the hotel and get to the Dentetsu Toyama train station by about 7.20am so that we could get that train to start the route. The plan was basically to get to Murodo as early as possible which would give ourselves almost two hours to spend there before moving on to Kurobe Dam and and returning to Toyama. The timetable was very helpful as was japan guide and the alpen-route web site in general. The three stops before Murodo, Bijodaira, Midagahara, and Tengudaira, all have attractions such as hikes, forests, and waterfalls (Shomyo Falls), but we definitely didn’t have time for those, so we opted to maximise our time at the two easiest stops (we wouldn’t need to reserve spots on transport, etc, etc). We also had to be back in Toyama by approximately 5.30-6pm to have dinner to make sure that the little tyrant wouldn’t get too upset. This is why my recommendation for the route would be to stay for one or two nights in Midagahara or Murodo so that you could spend some time at those earlier stops as well, the nature walks looked really interesting, as well as the hike to the summit of Mount Tateyama from Murodo.
So from Dentetsu Station (right next to Toyama main station) you get a regular old train to Tateyama (which takes approximately an hour) before going on all the other different modes of transport, bus, cable car, trolley bus (through the mountains), rope way, another cable car, and then either returning on the same things, or carrying on to Ogizawa on another trolley bus and rail line. With the number of people there were, you better work out where the front of the lines are if you’re on a tight schedule like we were, we could not afford to miss one mode and be stuck waiting half an hour (or whatever it was) for the next one to come along. Everything was full, there were practically no views (unless you were squished to the window) on the cable cars because they were packed in so tight.
We arrived at Murodo at 10.45 (sharp, amazing thing this Japanese timetabling system), and the weather was very clear, blue skies and fresh, not too warm under the sun (at altitude) and not particularly cool (shorts weather when you’re walking around). The easiest thing to Mikurigaike, there are a few paths around the pond that will give great views of the surrounding mountains with reflections in the pond, alpine flora, and views of other tourists wandering around the area as well. We only had an hour and a half more or less so that’s all we did before heading back to queue up for the transport to Kurobe Dam, we just got in too, actually we missed the first bus, but then they had another bus which we were let on to so we didn’t screw up the schedule.
After going through Daikanbo and then down the rope way to Kurobe Dam, we had about a half hour to walk across the dam wall, have a look and then head back on our way to Toyama. We didn’t have enough time to go to the higher observation point, but did there was enough time to venture to the lower observation deck which had some good views of the flowing water so it wasn’t a total waste, before heading back.
After all that rushing about, thanks to the efficient Japanese transport system, we arrived back in Toyama at exactly the scheduled time and happily had dinner and were back in the hotel to put Oscar down to sleep at a normal time. Once that was all sorted we were able to get his baby sitter (grandma) in and then head back to Toyama station for some sushi at sushidama (sushi train) as a reward, good stuff, nothing wrong with a bit of fatty tuna.
We stayed at the Toyama Manten Hotel which I think I mentioned was a bit of a walk from the station, but not too bad, a bit on the business side, but again quite reasonable, the breakfast buffet was definitely the best one we had on our entire trip, it was also the second most expensive hotel that we stayed at, but apart from the odd shape of the room (which only affected us because of the stroller) everything was nice and dandy like sour candy!
Next, final stop, Tokyo, Shinjuku and Asakusa to be exact, and shopping till we dropped, actually, we didn’t have enough time for that, so we’ll just have to go back and do some more shopping!
After leaving Princetown and stopping at a couple of lookouts near the 12 Apostles, we were headed for our next stop, Portland, via Port Fairy. It was particularly cold and wet this day so after having brunch in Port Fairy and hesitating on whether to visit the lighthouse or not, we ended up skipping it (another time perhaps) and just moving on to the accommodation in Portland. We ate at Rebecca’s Cafe for brunch, which was quite good, and had a great selection of cakes as well.
Portland, well, there isn’t much to say about Portland, pretty much your average regional town, not much to do or eat in town, maybe any attractions are outside of town. We did get out to have a look at the Cape Nelson Lighthouse but it was only a brief visit due to the weather. I would have loved to stay longer but the better half and the little one were in the car and it would have been very rude to keep them waiting too long. I would definitely hope to stop by in the future better equipped (an umbrella maybe) and more time to snap this location, very nice indeed. We stayed at the Victoria Lodge Motor Inn, it was okay, nothing special, clean and tidy.
After Portland, we headed to Robe in South Australia, via Mount Gambier, we had a wander around Blue Lake before having brunch and continuing on to Robe. Cafe Melzar in Mount Gambier was okay, but the portions were a bit small for the price. Driving on to Robe (em took a quick look at the sink hole garden) we were well and truly in South Australia, the timezone having changed, and the roads becoming very monotonous and boring with nothing interesting to keep the eyes from drooping.
We stayed at the Best Western Motel in Robe which had a nice, big room and a spa, but it was a bit too loud (Oscar is a light sleeper) so we weren’t able to give it a go. There isn’t a lot to do in Robe itself, a couple of walks around the town, see the Obelisk, I think the area is mainly for food and wine tourism, as for such a little town, it seemed to have a good selection of dining options. The two that we had time to try out were Sails (fine dining) and Provedore, a French bakery. Em had the lobster special at Sails while I tried the steak and an octopus salad, pretty much everything in the lobster menu was great, my octopus salad was very good and massive (it was virtually a main), the steak and prawn main was again, massive, the sauce I remember was a bit salty, otherwise, a very fine dining experience. We only had time for a take away breakfast from Provedore before heading for our longest day of driving. So a couple of rich, buttery croissants, and an orange friand were pretty much going to have to suffice until dinner time. They were very fresh and very French, absolutely delicious and well worth the extra step before leaving.
Six hours in a car with an unsettled baby, yikes, and finally we got to Cape Jervis where we could all get out of the car and relax for just a bit (on the ferry) before driving an extra forty minutes from Penneshaw to Kingscote where we would spend four days on Kangaroo Island. Next on dtraCorp…
Jebus, finally posting this, am I lazy or what? You’ve probably been waiting and waiting and thought, he’s never going to post the Switzerland stuff, and then BOOM! I post it, but you’ve already unsubscribed from this amazing blog. Any way, we’re approaching xmas and I am seriously still hoping to get all these posts up before then. Because Switzerland was so good, I’m going to split it into two, well, mainly cos there are too many pictures from the Alps to post. So I’ll be talking about, Zurich, Lucerne, and Geneva (even though we visited that place after we climbed the Alps). I mean, really, there’s not much to tell about these three cities from our point of view, we only spent one night in each place and half a day in each place.
The first thing I’m going to say is that Switzerland is bloody expensive, if you don’t know anyone there (and they better be thrifty), good luck finding a cheap eat that isn’t a kebab or something similar. Secondly, a lot of Swiss people smoke, or at least, a lot of people in Switzerland smoke, which I found very surprising considering that they’re very outdoor-sy, and the natural beauty of the country (I thought that people would be into clean living lol). All three cities are based around lakes, beautiful settings with beautifully laid out buildings and architecture. There isn’t a lot to see in town, wander around the lakes and shops, and the olde towns and that’s about it, they’re all pretty close to some great natural scenery though. That’s it, next up, the Alps, I promise to get that one up in a more prompt fashion.
Transport and Accommodation
We stayed in airbnb.com places in Lucerne and Zurich, both really nice and clean, and short distances from the town centres, we were going to stay at the YHA hostel in Geneva, but decided to stay at a hotel, the Admiral Hotel which is only a couple blocks from the Geneva train station, and a couple blocks the other way from Lake Geneva, a pretty good location, and it was relatively cheap compared to the other places in the area. It was small, but comfortable enough, although we could hear doors slamming outside, there was also a breakfast buffet provided with a reasonable spread.
In terms of transport we got around using the Swiss Half Fare card and regular train service, as well as trams within Zurich, and buses in Lucerne (although we could have just walked). In Geneva we really too tired to bother doing anything other than walking by the lake a bit.
Because I hate WordPress so much, I won’t even bother typing all the stuff we did cos I know that I’ll find a way to accidentally press back in the browser and everything will be gone again:
I wish the pictures didn’t load so badly (I mean it doesn’t even rotate iphone pictures properly >:(), but WordPress is really not working for me lately, any way, this is a bit of a preview, I will start uploading pictures from Vietnam to flickr next week while they are still reasonably fresh and in context, and catch up on the Japan photos after that.