Week 17 – My rare holiday week

Decided to start writing this early since I have nothing to do right now and it’s too risky to fall asleep.

Right now, I am currently on a boat cruising across Lake Manapouri; the starting point of my Doubtful Sound adventure. After reaching the shore (and civilization; currently no handphone reception), I have to drive about 100 minutes to my next accommodation. It’s a pretty old school hotel/guest house/tavern that I found on AirBnB. After which, tomorrow I will move into a backpackers and start my very tough job which I hope I can last through 3 weeks.

This week is my rare ‘holiday’ week, the first one ever that I had for my working holiday stint since I first started. This is the ‘best’ kind of holiday as it’s a break for me and I don’t have the stress of looking for a job as I have something lined up.

The first 3 days of my holiday was spent with friends I made in Wanaka. Monday was a farewell to Wanaka day spent by the Wanaka Lake and Tuesday – Wednesday, I went for a road trip to Mount Cook and Lake Tekapo (for the 4th time). This time round, the road trip was with friends that I weren’t really close to; more of just filling up the numbers to ‘save’ petrol cost. There wasn’t the lovely big group car conversations or lake games we played from the week before. The profile mix was just.. different. Nevertheless, it was a pretty peaceful trip with people who took a lot (and pretty) photos. Not complaining.

The first day, we did the glacier explorer boat ride which was super expensive at $170. In fact, this was the first time I actually paid to do a touristy activity. Although it was very pricey, I did enjoy myself and it wasn’t everyday that you can be up close with glaciers and listen to the history of the origins. Pretty magical and I had thoughts of ‘frozen’ the animation movie while staring at the ice.

That night, we didn’t do anything much, no card games and it was too cloudy for stargazing. Oh wells.

(Continue writing and now I’m in a backpackers in Alexandra and I’m planning to stay for a few nights here.)

The next day, we went to do the Hooker Valley Track which was nothing less than amazing. When we started, it was pretty cloudy but as we walked on, the blue skies emerged and the clouds went away slightly and we could see the magnificent Mt. Cook! If you don’t already know, Mt. Cook, standing at 3,724m, is the highest mountain in New Zealand. So, the track which usually takes 3 hours (return) took us 5.5 hours that day as we were simply stopping far too often for photos. We even lazed around at the Hooker Lake for up to 1.5 hours. The weather was so good that we could even see the reflection of Mt. Cook on the lake. This is by far the prettiest track that I’ve ever done.

After the Hooker Valley Track, we went to Lake Tekapo (well, it was my 4th time) and I finally took photo with the Shepard Dog statue. Originally, I thought it was to commemorate a real dog (just like Hachiko at Shibuya Station) but it turns out that it was just commemorating this breed of dog for being really helpful in the herding of sheep.

On the drive to Lake Tekapo, I almost crashed the car cause my friend (beside me) fell asleep and we stopped talking. Anyway, the conclusion is that driving is very dangerous and that you should always be 100% attentive on the road. Should there be opposite traffic on the other side, I might not even be here typing this but.. straight roads are worse than curves because it is so straight that you may end up spacing out like what happened to me.

Anyway, the plan was that if I could get home early, I would drive over to Queenstown and stay for a night but int he end, we only reached Wanaka at about 9pm. I ended up crashing in at a friend’s place for the night. They made me bid my farewell to Wanaka by climbing up Mt. Iron that morning. To be honest, although it was listed as an ‘easy’ walk, the steepness was pretty demanding at times but it was fine if you walk slowly. It’s about 1.5 hours return so if you’re in Wanaka for a short time, do give this walk a chance and you will be rewarded with a view of Wanaka town from the top.

After the short hike, it was time to leave. I picked up another 2 friends who were heading over to Queenstown and they kept me company through the crown range drive which was a drive that I was rather cautious of, due to the height, steep curves and ending of with 5 hairpin turns. After making a pitstop at Frankton to get a cup of bubble tea (which is the tastiest I’ve tasted here in New Zealand), I continued with the 2 hours+ drive to Te Anau.

For the first night, I did the Te Anau Glowworm caves tour which was simply mesmerizing. Firstly, I was impressed at how the cave could be absolutely pitch dark plus the colours of the glow worm was aqua blue which was kind of luminious glow. This was far from the fireflies that I’ve seen in Desaru. You could see these amazing (and somewhat disgusting) worms from upclose and the blue glow was unbelievable.

The next day, I went for the Milford Sound tour, starting from Te Anau. Although the Nature Cruise was only 2 hours, my entire tour took 8.5 hours! It started at 7:30am and the drive and guide took us on a relaxing and scenic bus ride with multiple photo stops along the way. I was really happy to have met a Singaporean couple in the bus ride and it was so comfortable to be able to speak Singlish. They were the second group of singaporeans I met by chance. The first one was in Wanaka, I met two people who were doing their ski instructor course.

For the third day, I did the Dobutful Sound tour. I had to drive out to a jetty 20 mins away from Te Anau and the itinerary took about 7 to 8 hours. It was a pretty intense itinerary as we had to take a boat, transfer to a coach and alight and get on another cruise. Well, it was truly exclusive as not many people visit the less famous Doubtful. Well, there are lesser landmarks in doubtful and we saw lesser animals – no seals or penguins – and there isn’t any famous and iconic waterfalls that your boat will be able to go near to. On the other hand, doubtful evokes another emotion of serenity and peacefulness. There are never ending unnamed waterfalls (due to higher rainfall) and the seas are likely to get rougher when heading out to the Tasman. Each has its own kind of charm and.. maybe you can try doing both if you have the luxury of time and money?

I think it was about 5pm when I got back to my car. Didn’t want to stay one more night in Te Anau’s YHA so I decided to set off to this super old school motel/hotel at this town with a Cool Name – Waikaka. Unlike its Hawaii-styled name, the town was small, quiet and pretty much empty. The Waikaka Hotel was a 2-in-1 pub and hotel and the best part was that everything was pretty affordable! I paid $30 for a single room which comes with a bed and.. a sink? I suppose it was a pretty old design/concept back in the 70s? The toilet and bathing facilities was shared among 6 rooms but there was only 2 occupied rooms including me that night. I ordered a burger that evening but gosh it was so delicious. There was a meat patty and slices of beef together with caramalized onions. It was the rugby world cup match too – England vs Australia and I guess it was a lot more crowded than usual. I was pretty tired that night so I only watched the first half before retreating to my room.

On a side note, the room didn’t come with a key and I didn’t ask either. I guess when you’re living in a pretty rural countryside, security ain’t too much of an issue but oh wells.

The next morning, I didn’t have to do any check out cause the owners were still asleep from the late rugby night so all I did was to pack up and leave. Found a random place for breakfast at Millis Flat; before heading to Alexandra to check into my backpackers.

Anyway, so there was a little miscom on perhaps my hearing and I thought that my accommodation would be $125/week but it turned out to be $25/day (>7 days) which means $175/week. Initially, when I heard of $125/week, I felt it was pretty reasonable as that was what I had been paying for Christchurch. So, when I found out it was $175, I decided not to unpack my stuff and started hunting for a new place and I guess I am lucky so I’m moving into a new place tomorrow. It’s gonna be a quiet place so I guess I’ll have more me-time and blogging time and perhaps catch up on my reading. I don’t have much friends here in Alexandra (yet) so maybe it’s a good thing temporarily. I’ve been slightly too busy and having too much fun back in Wanaka and Christchurch. haha.

On a side note, today is (finally) monday and I have survived my first day of work out in the orchard. I’m doing Apricot Fruit Thinning – which means like I have to get rid of bunches of fruits, leaving behind a few fruits per branch. The trees grow really tall and we have to use ladders non-stop to go up and down. It is physical but not as tiring as my other plant nursery job (for now). At least I didn’t want to call it quits in the first two hours. Then again, today was a good weather day (but I still got sun burn anyway)

Yep that’s all for my weekly update. Shall move on to some reading before I fall asleep and wake up tomorrow morning. Gonna have to move everything to my car in the morning. Wish me good luck ^^

Thanks for reading and see you next week!

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