Tag Archives: Qantas

When In Wanaka

After spending a few months on the island continent Australia I was itching to spread my wings. I had a semester break at the end of September/beginning of October and I knew where I wanted to go: New Zealand.

The scary part was that I was going to be doing this 100% on my own. I wasn’t going to meet anyone there that was part of my university or study abroad group. I was doing this for me. It was a huge step for me to travel and make plans on my own and it gave me confidence for future travel adventures. In my head I already knew that I wanted to go and see some of the Lord of the Rings filming locations, so I made it a mission to do just that. I decided to start my adventure on the South Island or Te Waipounamu in the city of Queenstown and I booked a day tour that would take me around to various locations used in the filming of the Lord of the Rings films.

An odd connection from Brisbane to an overnight in Melbourne to an AM Sydney flight and running through the Sydney airport to catch a flight, then a few hours staring out a Qantas window, a movie about a Scottish cyclist (The Flying Scotsman) and a crappy Robin Williams movie (License To Wed) later … I landed in Queenstown.

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I had arranged to be driven to Wanaka via a shuttle bus. the only problem was that I didn’t know/remember the name of the bus. This was before the smartphone era so I had to boot up my laptop and then try and find WiFi at the airport and STILL, I was stuck. I knew when I was going to be picked up, but I didn’t know by who. When the time came to be picked up I wandered around the shuttles and saw one. I guess I looked lost because the driver immediately asked if I was going to Wanaka and if I was staying at the Minaret Lodge B&B. I was relieved that he named the right place! I handed him the money I owed and off I went.

I stared out the window and took in the beautiful scenery. I hadn’t seen anything like it before. Everything was so green and pristine. Truly beautiful.

The bus snaked up a windy road and when we reached the top, I was surprised to see snowflakes fall lightly on the window. It was nearly October. It was supposed to be transitioning from Spring into Summer. Brisbane was warm-to-hot nearly every day. I also hadn’t seen snow fall since I was about 10 or 11 years old. I nearly forgot what it looked like.

One-by-one, and sometimes more, people were being dropped off at their respective hotels until it was me and two other people left. The sun had gone down long ago leaving only the orange glow of the streetlights to cut through the darkness. The bus pulled up to a driveway covered in tiny pebbles and I was let out. I was greeted by a kind woman, who was also the owner, who showed me to my Hobbit-sized room.

After traveling all that way, I had nearly forgotten that I had booked a room that would make me feel like a hobbit.

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After getting settled the owner asked if I wanted to head into town to get some dinner, since she was heading there. I would have to walk back, but I didn’t mind so I took her up on it and she dropped me off right next to the restaurant she recommended to me: The Cow. Situated right next to the Post Office, The Cow Pizza & Spaghetti House, is truly one of the best pizzas I have ever eaten. It’s a warm and inviting place full of history and great pizza. I sat down, ordered one of the local seasonal beers and of course a pizza.

I don’t recall a time before this where I went out to dinner by myself. It was nice. I was able to take in everything around me. I felt the warmth of the wood fire, I heard the locals talk and I saw people young and old enjoying the ambiance, each other and the food. You can’t beat that.

At the end of my meal I noticed a few t-shirts hanging around and I asked the waitress which one looked better on me. She told me the tan one and it’s still a shirt that I own and wear to this day.

On my way back to my room I took the road parallel to Roys Bay and you know what I heard? Nothing. It was a silent, quiet night and I was able to enjoy the serenity of a nighttime lakeside walk on the aptly named Lakeside Rd as I made my way back to my Hobbit-sized room.

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Into the Southern Hemisphere

As I stood in the line for Qantas (keep in mind this was 2007, so I remember the gist of everything but not certain details) , I remember thinking “this is going to be a very long flight”. Certainly the longest flight I had ever been on up to that point in my life. Up until that roughly 15-hour flight the longest flight I had ever been on was an 8-hour ride to Spain in the Summer of 2004, it was also the only other time I had left the United States and here I was about to venture off to the other side of the world, literally, and be the farthest away from home I had ever been. Luckily, the flights to Australia generally take off at midnight from Los Angeles which can allow an easier transition to the time change because by the time you land you’ve lost two days. I remember trying to stay awake as long as I could then just passing out and, when I woke up, watching some movies and TV shows until we landed.

Now being a California guy I enjoy wearing shorts year round but the cold doesn’t get to me like most Californians. When it dips below 60 I see people bring out their scarves and mittens and beanies. I just wear my shorts, a sweatshirt and most likely sandals. This happens other places I go too. If I can wear shorts, I will. The cold doesn’t really bother me. I bring this up because I left the USA in July and this being the Southern Hemisphere, it was winter so it was cooler/cold but not to the point where I needed to layer up. It was a bit of a shock stepping out onto the cool street and knowing that it was July but I acclimated quickly.

I should note that one of my companions, who turned out to be one my good friends on this trip – I called him “T” on account of our affinity for the movie Men In Black, lost his luggage – rather the airline lost his luggage and sent it to Tahiti or someplace so he was stuck wearing the same clothes for what I think amounted to a week and a half, maybe two weeks. He had a good sense of humour about it and, still, seven years later I still bring it up and laugh about it. He literally washed his socks, boxers, and shirt every night in the sink with soap & water. It also taught me to always travel with a spare change of socks, shirt and boxers in my carry-on. So for that T, I thank you.

To help all of us newcomers to the country get acclimated to the time change we stayed out in the small beach resort town of Sorrento which is about and hour and a half south of Melbourne. Why did we stay out here? I have no idea, but I was not going to complain given the scenery. One of the first things I remember doing after putting down my bags was heading down to the beach and exploring the area.

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After exploring the coast for a bit and examining the tide pools and watching the crashing waves for a while I believe it was time to head back and partake in the boring part of why we were all there: orientation. What a great way to end the day huh? Sitting down… hearing about acceptable behaviour, social customs, pronunciation of words and things of a similar nature being discussed in great detail…Oh, and advice/guidelines for us so that we would not end up in jail or worse, deported. Don’t worry, that didn’t happen. It was boring and informative, but it sure put me in the mood to sleep, that’s for sure. It made for an easy transition into Australian life.

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