Day 6 was the only day we had a goodish amount of driving to do. I'd deliberately planned it that way, one day of 7-7.5 hours driving time against 2 days of 6 hrs driving each, as easier on all of us. Imagine my dismay when I re-checked the driving times on all the maps we had picked up in NZ and found that they estimated the driving time between Te Anau and the Glacier country, as 10.5 hours!!! On top of that, we discovered that I had left the car rental documents in the Queenstown airport and that we had been driving in an alien country with no rental and insurance documents. I looked suitably apologetic while being thoroughly scolded for my carelessness, however I had already forgiven myself. I had planned and booked every bit of the holiday, not to mention the entire packing up, shutting up of the apartment, notice to everyone from the car cleaner, apartment office, maid, cook, newspaper, milkman and security guards...with a thousand things to remember, yes I had been a little careless...so what? We checked out and left as early as we could on Boxing day and drove back all the way to Queenstown airport, where we managed to get duplicate documents very quickly.
We now had to head slightly north-east, then cut across and head steadily westwards until we hit the coast and headed north to Glacier Country. We cut through the Remarkables (that's what the mountain ranges in Central Otago and the Queenstown-Lakes district are called) and down to Wanaka, a very pretty town on the shores of Lake Wanaka. Wanaka is sort of like a little sister to Queenstown, but much more peaceful and a holiday destination in itself.
We found a very handy picnic table with a canopy (it was hot and sunny!) just very close to where S and the kids are standing in the pic, and while S went off to fill petrol, I unpacked our picnic lunch (sandwiches again) and got the kids to eat up. We'd had some anxious moments in the car as both of them seemed to be queasy on the winding road so we also made a brief stop at the town center to buy some nausea medication. I've done enough washing and wiping down of cars and carseats to be very very wary of anybody puking in the car :( We lined the floor and the entire backseat of the car with newspapers and plastic covers before we started off again and I kept the children chewing lollipops for more than an hour. I also tried to get them to sleep - a surefire remedy - but they just weren't interested. Fortunately, though they did continue to feel queasy, they didn't actually throw up and I heaved a big sigh of relief :)
We crossed the very still, very beautiful Lake Hawea before hitting the coast. The coastline (Tasman Sea) was evocative of the holiday we had taken driving along the Big Sur in California. The same bright blue sea, the same white sand and the same blinding sunshine.
A quick taste of 100% New Zealand ice-cream at Haast, and we quickly reached Glacier Country. We had taken only 8 hours on the road so the maps had indeed been way off the mark. We crossed the township (or should I call it a village) of Fox Glacier and drove another 20 or so km to Franz Josef, where we were staying. The self-contained villas where I had booked us (over-riding the more convenient location suggested by our travel agent) turned out to be a truly inspired choice. It was a little bit out of town, so we had to drive if we wanted a bite to eat, but for that very reason, it was very quiet and had a superb view of snow-capped mountains. I gracefully accepted the compliments showered on my acumen by the husband, and gently suggested that it might be the best place we've ever stayed in while travelling, even better than the truly lovely ones S had unearthed in the past. I think S was in a great mood on seeing the villa because he conceded the point :)
Harmony restored, we had a lovely time taking pics of the place before the kids turned it into a shambles :)
This is the living area with a partial view of the sit-out. There was also a dining table and a kitchenette in the same room. The living room led to the bathroom and to the main bedroom.
You can kind of see the kitchen in this snap. The stairs on the right led to the 2nd bedroom which had 3 singe beds and a lovely sloping roof. The kids promptly appropriated it for their own :)
The view from the sit-out. Lovely, na?
Our unit from the outside (and that's me skulking in the curtains :))
The guy at the front-desk was super-friendly. The first thing he did when we checked in was to shove a bottle of milk in my hand, to 'fix a drink for your little ones'. Now that completely totally bowled me over!!!! Such a small gesture, it cost them literally nothing, but so thoughtful! The guys also gave us a lot of tips on where to eat, what to see etc. Based on his recommendation, we toddled off to an Indian restaurant and gorged ourselves on paneer and naan.
I had planned the Franz Josef stay in such a way that we had nothing much scheduled by way of sightseeing. Apart from a 1/2 hour helicoper flight to see the glacier (very touristy, I know), every other activity was strictly optional. By this time we were also getting a bit tired, what with laying our heads down in a different bed and a different city almost every night, and we needed a mid-vacation break. A break in the middle of a break. How's that??? :)
The way this hotel worked, we told the guy at the reception what we wanted for breakfast the next day, and he delivered all the ingredients by 8 pm the previous night. I was delighted to see our breakfast basket. It was so cute!
Sigh, it had been a long (but good) day. We oohed and aahed over the sunset at 9 pm with background noise from Ads - "Amma, why do you always like to see the sunrise and sunset?" "Amma, why do you take so many photos?"!!!!