New Zealand Nov 2004 trip – Back to Singapore

This is part of some travelling notes I wrote exactly 4 years ago for a trip to New Zealand in November 2004. Please enjoy the story.

Day 9, 14 November 2004, Sunday

My mind left dream land at 6:00am, but my body only caught up at 6:15am. Ate the last Snickers and muesli bars for breakfast. Waited for the 6:30am morning call. Ring, ring. Time to move. Washed up, packed up and dragged my luggage across the road to get to the reception counter. Checking out was a brief affair, and the receptionist helped me mail a survey letter (from my tour package company TourMasters) I did last night.

It was then 7:30am. I walked around the reception room, glancing at the hotel’s trophies, paintings and fireplace. They were also selling batteries, shavers, medicine and stuff. The only reason I even remember these things was that I felt restless waiting there. And hungry, didn’t forget that… Oh, there were two floor lamps, metal (bronze?) molded in the shape of angels (I guess), mirror images of each other. Oh good, my limo arrived (same car company for when I first arrived in Christchurch). Driver’s name is Ashley.

Reached airport at 8:05am. Ashley even showed me how and where to check in before he left. Finished checking in at 8:20am. Could have been earlier, but there was a young couple who seemed to have overweight baggage, and was creating extra paper work.

Didn’t want to repeat the same mistake 9 days ago in Changi Airport, so I hurried immediately to the gate. I got a window seat! Not too good though, because the right airplane wing was just outside my window and the sun was especially strong. Not much cloud cover to speak of, so my eyes were assailed by a constant stream of reflected sunlight. I had to pull the window cover down to shield my eyes.

Lift off at 9:16am, touch down at 10:21am. That was quick. Connecting flight’s at 1:00pm, so I had plenty of time. I decided to walk the 8 minute route from the domestic terminal to the international terminal. My luggage was automatically transferred to the plane, so I didn’t have to lug that big case around. I took my time, since my calf was still aching. Checked in early, paid the airport tax (NZ25.00), and explored the Auckland airport a bit, since the last time I was here, I was kinda occupied with reaching my connecting flight.

Nothing much to see really, so I went to the gate to wait. Besides, the smell from the cafes and McDonald’s was driving me crazy. Hope they serve food on the flight soon. I’m famished!

It’s now 11:20am, one hour more till boarding time. I got a window seat again! My seat partner was Sheila from Christchurch. She’s English by birth, but decided to reside in New Zealand. Going to her brother’s birthday. Wishes her children will provide her some grandchildren.

At 2:10pm, they served lunch. Finally. There was some chicken thingy, vegetables, bread and dessert cake. I hope Sheila didn’t get the impression that I’m a starving lunatic, what with the way I was bulldozing through the food. Though it’s not too far from the truth. I really was trying very hard to eat with decorum. Inflight movies: “I, Robot”, “The Terminal” and “The Manchurian Candidate”. They served stuff on and off. Like lemon tinctured ice water. Take. Ice cream. Take. Peanuts and crackers. Take. Orange juice. TAKE! Oh yeah, I’m not too picky…

Did some problems from Amazing Logic Puzzles to kill time. Managed to solve 5 math puzzles before the 10:00pm dinner. Food! Yeah! Lasagne, long beans, bread, fruit, cake, orange juice and Chinese tea. Oh this is lovely.

The flight took about 11 hours. We landed on Singapore soil at 7:12pm Singapore time according to the plane, and 12:10am New Zealand time according to my watch. Switching back to Singapore time now. I’m back!


I thoroughly enjoyed this trip. Sure there were unfortunate instances that could have been avoided, like maybe walking less (Dunedin walkathon), or bringing more money (the two day end-of-trip financial disaster). But these are what made my trip more memorable, and ultimately more enjoyable. I wasn’t in any real danger, so I went for having adventures instead.

I’m glad this trip was so free-style in nature. Imagine being led around by a tour guide. Why would I want to do that, when I can explore the cities and have my own experience? New Zealand gave me awe-inspiring landscapes, unforgettable experiences and unique memories.

A lot of people asked why I’m travelling alone, especially for my first trip. First off, no one’s free to come along, or willing to pay for this trip I like. Second, I wanted freedom at the time. I wanted this to be entirely different for me. About the only thing I heeded was to get a tour package. The tour company arranged everything about transport and lodging. Food and fun is up to me.

Finally, I want to thank all the people I’ve met on the trip. Notable persons are:

  • Richard, the Air New Zealand pilot.
  • Jung Tea Hee, the Korean backpacker.
  • Mie, the Japanese lady.
  • Rob, my paragliding pilot.
  • The nice Mexican couple. … Especially and particularly this nice Mexican couple. I really should have gotten their names…
  • Jaya, my glacier walk guide.

My only regret was that I didn’t take pictures of the people I met. I started on the trip just wanting to have a new view of my world. The (mis)adventures I had and the people I came into contact with, made my experience fuller. Thank you for reading.

New Zealand Nov 2004 trip – Starving broke

This is part of some travelling notes I wrote exactly 4 years ago for a trip to New Zealand in November 2004. Please enjoy the story.

Day 8, 13 November 2004, Saturday

Woke up at 6:00am, but decided to just lie underneath the covers because it’s really cold. Got out of bed at 6:30am because I was hungry. Ate the Snickers bar and two muesli bars. Packed everything and just waited till 8:00am.

Took my luggage out of the room and the motel manager (happened to pass by) told me to stay put. He’ll drive around to pick me and another couple’s luggage. Apparently, the couple went to the coach pick up point first and left their luggage here. Anyway, the motel guy is really nice. Forgot to get his name, but I’ll remember his establishment. Rainforest Motel, folks, Rainforest Motel of Fox Glacier.

The pick up point is actually just outside the Alpine Guides station. I met a middle-aged/elderly couple from Sydney, Australia. They’re going to take the TranzAlpine as well. This was also the couple whose luggage was brought over with me.

Coach came, and driver took everyone’s vouchers except mine. I gave it to him and he was trying to look for my name. I moved closer to help him, and he backed away. Whether he wanted a better light, or he didn’t want me to look at his list, I’ll never know.

When we’re about to leave (8:31am), the general store lady rushed out (the store’s opposite the Alpine Guides station), with what I think is a NZ20.00 note in her hand. Some conversation between her and the driver, and I only caught something about the driver keeping the change. Started moving again at 8:32am. Coach driver’s name’s Maurice, I think. Didn’t quite catch it. Or Moris.

Franz-Josef town
The town of Franz-Josef seems larger than that of Fox Glacier. But I think Fox sounds way cooler than Franz-Josef…

Some commentary from driver about the colour of glacial rivers. Chalky, because of the rock dust or rock flour ground by the glaciers. Picked up more passengers from Franz-Josef town. Met the Mexican couple again. Left Franz-Josef town proper at 9:42am. Passed Whataroa town. Picked up another passenger at 10:04am. Entered Mount Hercules Scenic Reserve (10:16am).

Pukekura stop. Possum delights. Yum…

Bushmans Centre
Pukekura stop. The coach driver was making a joke of running if one was suddenly under a huge shadow. It could the killer sandfly… haha… 🙂

Moose and turkey
Pukekura stop. This a moose? Coach driver was talking about there being three turkeys. That was two Christmases ago, he said. And we now have only one turkey here…

Frisbee at Pukekura
Pukekura stop. Frisbee! Blue disk in picture centre. People lounging, writing in notepads, licking on ice cream and so on and so forth.

Stopped at Pukekura (10:48am to 11:14am). Entered Fergusson’s Bush Scenic Reserve (11:22am). Passed through gold mining town of Ross (11:32am).

Rain in Hokitika.

Hokitika clock
Jade, or greenstone as they call it.

We stopped at Hokitika from 11:55am to 12:30pm. Didn’t want to walk around town. It was raining then, so didn’t want to get wet. Lunch was a miserable muesli bar. Rain stopped at 12:15pm. The coach windows were clear again at 12:30pm. Either the rain here is different or the coach windows are really good at keeping water off.

Greymouth Station

Greymouth train station and the TranzAlpine.

Stopped at Greymouth at 1:10pm. Checked in luggage, and didn’t want to miss the train, so kept close to the station. While waiting for the train, saw a “Just Married” tag hung on the backpack of the husband of the Mexican couple. Awww… that’s so sweet. Got on TranzAlpine Express at 1:40pm. My ticket gives a window seat on the left! Seat B3A. Carriage B, row 3, seat A.

Well, the train ride might have been really good, but I didn’t really enjoy it. In fact, I was downright miserable. Cold, hunger and exhaustion overwhelmed me, and I dozed half the time on the train. Plus the windows were a bit dirty, and they really reflect the interior, so pictures weren’t great.

Arthurs Pass
Arthur’s Pass.

Just showing the real cool reflective properties of the train window.

We stopped at Arthur’s Pass station and picked up (and left off) some passengers. Took pictures of the mountains and went back in. Really cold. And really hungry. I’m left with one muesli and two Snickers bars, so I want to conserve them a bit.

And the train driver wasn’t helping! He kept mentioning about the bar counter in carriage D, where things like warm pies, sumptuous sandwiches, delicious ice cream (for some reason, tourists really love them despite the cold weather), fragrant teas, and hot chocolate could be bought. And there were specialty sandwiches. NZ2.00 for two. They might be good value, but I couldn’t even afford that now. Oh this is disasterrific…

Passed through Springfield (stopped for some servicing) and Darfield. We must have passed through some other towns, but I was asleep. 5:20pm, and I’m now really looking forward to being in Christchurch, where I could find some food. I had not eaten real food for about 2 days now, surviving on just cookies and nutrition bars and chocolate bars.

45 minutes later, we pulled into Christchurch train station. I waited patiently for my luggage to come unto the conveyor belt. Grabbed it, and went looking for my hotel transport driver. “V. Tan. Cotswold Hotel.” I think the driver’s a Mauri, name’s Tores. Really big man. Took me to Cotswold Hotel, where the receptionist Rewa gave him a voucher (NZ12.00) for the taxi fare (my transport’s supposed to be paid for by the hotel. Or I’ve already paid it, and it’s included in my itinerary vouchers.).

Room 872
Oh yeah, room 872.

Cotswold Hotel
Cotswold Hotel.

I checked in. Room number 872. I’ve never stayed at a hotel room a road away from the main hotel before. Cool. Entered my room (opulent) and emptied my pockets. NZ31.65 and an American quarter. Well if the departure tax is NZ25.00, I would only have NZ6.65 for dinner. I went back to the reception counter to check. Yup, NZ25.00.

Burger King
My life saver!!

Head down, I went looking for a fast food joint. Burger King! I went in, scanned the menu on top and rested my eyes on “Double Cheeseburger. Normal NZ5.95. Large NZ6.45”. Yes, within budget! I might as well get the large one.

“No combo?”, the waiter asked.
“No, just the burger.”, I replied.

Now, under normal circumstances, one could have deduced that NZ6.45 wouldn’t buy just a burger. But I’m not thinking straight at the moment. So when they plopped a pack of fries and a cup with the burger, I asked if this was part of what I paid for. They look stunned. Since they didn’t ask me for more money, I diverted the question. “Is that where I get my drink?”, I pointed to the self-service tap on my right after glancing around. They nodded.

I sauntered towards the drink device, scanned through the available choices, and stuck my cup under “raspberry fizzy”. I sat down, and at 7:15pm, chewed on my first bite of normal food. Bliss. Never mind it being fast food. Finished my meal at 7:28pm. Fast, considering the normal speed I eat. I’m just happy I got more than the burger.

National Radiation Laboratory
I remember it’s the National Radiation Laboratory. Not “Research”. “Radiation”. I wonder why it’s in the middle of the city…
[EDIT] It is National Radiation Laboratory.

Christchurch clock
Missed this clock on the first day.

Christchurch penitentiary
I could be mistaken, but this building is a penitentiary. Says so on the gate.

Christchurch casino
Christchurch casino.

The Peterborough. I have no idea what this building houses. A club maybe?

It’s my last leisure day in New Zealand, so despite the aching advice given by my right calf (injury from glacier walk), I braved the city once more. Finally, at 8:00pm, my desperate thighs added their protests as well, so I made my way back to the hotel. Checked my finances again. 1 NZ20.00, 1 NZ2.00 coin, 2 NZ1.00 coins, 2 NZ0.50 coins, 1 NZ0.01 coin, 2 NZ0.05 coins and an American quarter, disregarding the fact that I still have Singapore money on me.

On hindsight, I could have changed money at the reception or with people around me, but I only remembered the bank. And they were closed now (Saturday afternoon). After paying the NZ25.00 tax, I’ll just have NZ0.20 left. And the American quarter. Not exactly a penny to my name, but close.

Anticipating another Amazing Race flight connection. Domestic flight from Christchurch to Auckland flies at 8:55am, and I think it takes two and a half hours. So will reach Auckland at about 11:30am. Connecting flight’s at 1:00pm. More than enough time, some would say, but I’m not too hopeful at this point. Will check out early the next day, and hope my transport to the airport arrives sooner. Oh yeah, ate one more Snickers bar. Still hungry.

New Zealand Nov 2004 trip – Glacier village

This is part of some travelling notes I wrote exactly 4 years ago for a trip to New Zealand in November 2004. Please enjoy the story.

Day 6, 11 November 2004, Thursday

Woke up at 5:45am before the wake up call at 6:00am. Ate the sandwiches I bought last night, which were pretty tasteless. Decided to check out early. Paragliding and jetboating, NZ255.00 translating to about $300.00 Singapore dollars. And the uh blinds “damage” I wrecked (nothing was deducted for it. Whew.)

Checked out, boarded the coach and yes, got a left window seat (prospects of viewing the Tasman Sea on the left). Left Queenstown at 7:40am, and made a brief 10 minute stop near Cromwell (Jone’s Fruit Stall). Nothing much to see, so didn’t bother climbing out of the coach.

Grape fields
Grapes, for making wine.

Sheep blocking road

Sheep blocking road
Coach-stopping sheep.

Somewhere on the ride, the coach slowed. What happened? Sheep happened! This herd of sheep wandered onto the road and rendered the strip of asphalt impassable. I don’t know if there were farmers or shepherds around, but the sheep dog was doing okay.

Puzzling World
Puzzling World.

Passed Luggate and Wanaka airport. Passed Puzzling World near Wanaka town, where one can see water running uphill.

Lake Wanaka
Lake Wanaka

Vincent at Lake Wanaka

Met a Mexican couple who helped take a picture of me at Lake Wanaka. Then we moved on and had another 10 minute break by Lake Hawea at 9:37am.

Ship crossing lake
Ship crossing Lake Wanaka. Or Lake Hawea. Can’t remember…

Makarora Country Cafe
Makarora Country Cafe.

Passed Albert town, and then saw Lake Hawea from afar. Stopped at Makarora for 20 minutes (10:34am). No money to buy anything. Oh yeah, stomach’s growling now…

Mountain, river, flat land

Haast Pass sign

Thunder Creek falls

Thunder Creek falls sign

Passed Makarora River while crossing bridge near Haast Pass. Stopped at Thunder Creek Falls at 11:30am (10 minutes) for more pictures.

Haast town outskirt
Rest stop at outskirts of Haast town. Took hot chocolate break on the other side of the building (right of picture).

Passed Haast town, then stopped at outskirts of the town (12:20pm-12:50pm). Finally got a hot chocolate for NZ3.00 and shared table (all other seats taken) with the Mexican couple from Lake Wanaka. They’re here for a honeymoon (two weeks in New Zealand, one week in Melbourne). They’re going to Franz-Josef Glacier, then taking TranzAlpine Express, then fly to Melbourne.

Around Tasman Sea shore

Around Tasman Sea shore

Around Tasman Sea shore

Around Tasman Sea shore
Tasman Sea and surroundings.

Coach continued journey and stopped for a scenic break (Tasman Sea!) from 1:10pm to 1:25pm. We moved again and passed Wakopohi River, then Lake Moeraki (means sleeping by day. Could be only 2 metres deep in some places).

Salmon farm
Salmon farm.

Crossed the Paringa River and stopped (again!) at Salmon Farm (2:13pm to 2:34pm). The nice Mexican couple actually offered me food! Uh, I sort of mentioned I was flat broke during my hot chocolate respite with them… I turned down the offer (a bit embarrassed). They just got married on 30 October. They’re good people. *sniff sniff*

Passed by small town of Bruce Bay, Parakeri Creek and Jacobs Rivers School. Alpine Fault extends 600 kilometres all the way to Milford Sound. We are now at the western side of Southern Alps. Annual snowfall at Fox and Franz-Josef glaciers: 45 metres. The two glaciers actually reach all the way to the rainforest region. The only other glacier doing this is in South America, Patagonia.

Passed several strips of water next: Mai Mai Creek, Dusty Miller Creek, Karangarua River, Black Creek (water’s really black!), Ohinatamatea River, Cook River (Waheka) and Fox River. Somewhere during the succession of creeks and rivers, we picked up someone in like the middle of nowhere. She came up, couldn’t find an empty seat, and plopped down beside me. She put on her head phones immediately.

Things were a little quiet until we reached the Fox Glacier village. During the time between letting off the first batch of tourists and the second (my stop), I found out the young woman beside me had been hiking up Mount Tasman. 17 kilometres up and 17 kilometres down! Wow. She’s going back to her hostel at Franz-Josef village.

Rainforest Motel room
Behind the counter is a small fridge where I kept the muesli bars and biscuits. That sink was where I ate my breakfast/dinner muesli bars and biscuits…

A pure shower! I’m sick of two-in-one shower/bathtubs…

The open nature of the room.

Rainforest Motel sign
Rainforest Motel. Love this place!

Fox Glacier town map
Fox Glacier town map.

Reached my stop, said goodbye to her, passed the Mexican couple (they’re asleep) and checked into Rainforest Motel at 3:30pm. It was drizzling. I got room number 1, and it’s the most unusual place I have ever stayed at. Spacious and transparent (the entire room is visible if you don’t draw the curtains). I rested for a while since it was raining anyway, and my legs and feet haven’t quite recovered from the Dunedin walkathon and Queenstown gondola trek.

Rain stopped. I went to Alpine Guides to place a reservation for the glacier walk tomorrow. It’s fully booked!! Argh! Oh no! The lady at the counter can put me on a waiting list (Amazing Race déjà vu here) on the 9:30am and 10:30am walks. I was the third on hold for both full day (6 hour) walks. Seeing my disappointment, she said she could also put me on the 1:45pm half day walk, which I can be confirmed for. I agreed and thanked her. With a heavy heart and equally heavy feet, I went in search of dinner.

Fox Glacier Visitor Centre
Fox Glacier Visitor Centre. Not a lot of people this time of year.

Walked around town first, though the main purpose is to check out the dinner prices. I’m broke, remember? Everything’s expensive. I resigned to my fate and chose The Plateau. Sat at the restaurant from 4:35pm to 5:00pm (dinner’s served at five). Read through some of the problems in my Amazing Logic Puzzles book. 5:00pm came, and I ordered a smoked salmon (NZ15.50), and when she asked what I’d like to drink, I said orange juice. What was I thinking!! NZ4.00 gone. I only realised what I did five minutes after I ordered…

Finished dinner and went to local general store. Bought 8 Mother Earth muesli bars (NZ4.05, apricot and yoghurt) and 12 peanut-chocolate biscuits (NZ3.60). Went back to Alpine Guides to ask if being a Thrifty Tours (my tour package) customer gave me a discount for the glacier walk (it’s written on my itinerary. Any discount’s good at this point.). She said yes (NZ5.00 off the NZ85.00 price), and asked if I wanted to pay then. I said I’m actually on the waiting list. She checked, and told me I’m now in! I’m on the 10:30am walk! Yay! I paid the NZ80.00 with a lighter state of being (the glacier walk was the highlight of my trip).

Football field


Fox Glacier-Weheka school

Local residents

Horse and rider

Walked back to motel, and decided to walk a little further to see what’s up. And the fact that it’s still early, and I’m still kinda depressed about my current financial quagmire. Took some pictures of local school children at outdoors games lesson, cows, and a horseback rider. Then I went back to the motel.

I took out everything I’ve got. NZ33.85. Well NZ33.75 and … an American quarter. I guess the general store lady either couldn’t tell the difference (the NZ0.10 has similar size and colour as the quarter), or they’re of equal value. Or she’s conning me.

I gathered my receipts and notes, and added all my expenses. They pretty much add up. So tomorrow’s breakfast, lunch and dinner are gonna be a mixture of Snickers bars, muesli bars and biscuits. Took out one muesli bar and 4 biscuits to eat. Gonna have to eat like this till I reach Christchurch two days later…

I don’t have to wake up early tomorrow. Nothing to do, nothing to see. I was told a bus can take me to Lake Matheson and back. But it costs NZ10.00. No option there. So I’ll sleep in a little, and rest my weary body.