4-21 November 2019
Seven of us flew from Bangkok to Auckland connecting to Queenstown. The plan is to spend a few days joining activities around Queenstown and then join the 6-days self-guided eBike ride on the Alps-to-Ocean (A2O) tour. After that to spend a few more days adding activities on the way back to Christchurch to fly home via Auckland.
We got to Queenstown the evening of Tuesday November 5th 2019 and checked into apartments near the center of town. The next morning we woke up to a bright sunny cool morning and went to ride the Queenstown Luge ( https://www.skyline.co.nz/en/queenstown/things-to-do/skyline-luge-queenstown/ ). It was a fun easy way to start the trip. BFT Grade B-
In the afternoon we decided to join a quad bike tour about 30 minutes away from town ( https://offroad.co.nz/ ). It was O.K. But the ride was not all that exciting and we spent too much time riding around and round the flat ground , supposedly to familiarize ourselves with the bikes. I think we could have cut that short by half so we could have spent more time on the trails. BFT Grade B-
On Thursday November 8th, we joined The Ultimate Ride A full Day Supported Electric Bike Tour. See the highlights of the Queenstown Trail ( https://www.aroundthebasin.co.nz/product/the-ultimate-electrified-full-day-ride/ ).
This was something different for Big Foot Tour as most times, we either go on self-guided rides or fully guided. This “support format” was ok but it feels a bit like a duck, (can do everything but nothing well). BFT Grade A-
On Friday we went on the full-day Funyak Tour ( https://www.dartriver.co.nz/kayaking/ ). It was rather disappointing. Not only that it is quite expensive, it was not all that exciting. First of all we had to take a long hour ride out to the starting point. Then the jetboat ride up the river to the starting point of the “inflatable kayaks” was not all that much fun. Some people may like it but for BFT, riding passively in a fuming loud jetboat was rather boring. The “inflatable kayaks” was even worse as we did not have much of a chance to do any paddling or steering. It was pretty much just a “floating down the river”. BFT Grade C
The next day we drove to Te Anau and the following day we joined a small bus tour to Milford Sound. The company that prided the tour, Fjordland Tour ( https://www.fiordlandtours.co.nz/ ) was quite good. The bus was small enough to keep the group small (12 or less) and the driver/guide was extremely knowledgeable and gave verbal explanation of different areas. This is one tour that I have been in that did not just rush us through. Instead we get to stop in many places that were not in the itinerary. The guide also went out of his way to make sure that we got the best of everything.
As we were leaving Te Anau, we were told that because of the rain during the night, there was a landslide near Milford Sound and that the road would be closed “until midday”. Our guide modified the ride so that we ended up stopping a bit more often at various sights along the way. We got to the closed section around noon. With his local knowledge, he was able to drive up to near the front of the line of hundreds of cars, some of who may have been waiting there for hours. Less than 30 minutes later, the road reopened.
Being near the front, we were the first bus to arrive at the dock so were the first group to board the boat. The guide even came on board to show us the best place to sit during the boat trip. BFT Grade A
The next morning we were supposed to join the Glow Worm tour but the was level in the lake was too high so the tour was canceled. So we drove back to Wanaka via Queenstown.
The next morning, we dropped by the Wanaka Lavender Farm ( https://www.wanakalavenderfarm.com/ ). We were there too early for the lavender bloom (January to March) but the farm is really nicely layout and large enough that I can imagine that it would look glorious during the peak bloom time. BFT Grade B+/A-
We then drove to Twizel to start out multi-day self-guided Alps2Ocean (A2O) bike tour.
Alps2Ocean (A2O) BIKE TOUR
The Alps2Ocean (A2O) https://www.alps2ocean.com/ is an amazing mostly dedicated bicycle trail that starts in the Southern Alps and ends at the Pacific Ocean. It winds through fields, forests, lakes and although there are some climb, the whole routes drops about 700 meters over 300 kilometers.
For this trip, we booked with Cycle Journeys https://cyclejourneys.co.nz/ . We decided to use Electric-assisted Bikes (eBikes) for this and the bikes supplied were good quality touring bikes. They also provide helps along the way. Mid way through the trip, one of the bikes developed some problems. We contacted the company and they promptly sent a replacement bike in just a few hours.
The information package was good with plenty of details, even with updated information regarding any changes in the ride. For example, on one day, the weir was flooded and was not open to cross, the company transported us to the other side.
Besides prompt luggage transport service daily, the accommodation that the company booked for us were all really good. They were clean and spacious. The one truly outstanding place was The Old School Enfield https://theoldschoolenfield.co.nz/
It is a converted school house that was renovated by the friendliest of friendly owners, Blanche and Craig. They named all the rooms as if it was still a school, like I got the “Senior Room” and the office was called “Headmaster”. With the proximity to Oamaru, this would be a great place to base out for the tour around the area.
Two observations from the six days one this route were :
- All the people we met in lodges, restaurants, and shops along the way are some of the friendliest people we have encountered anywhere
- 99.9% of these people have been to Thailand (Bangkok, Chiangmai, Samui, Phuket ….)
Instead of rewriting what has been written in numerous articles about the trails. It is best that I let the pictures show what we went through over the course of 6 days.
After we finished the A2O tour, we drove to Akaroa. On the way we stopped for a quad bike ride with Adventure Trailrides (https://www.adventureride.co.nz/atv-quad-bike-tours/ ). it turned out to be the best quad bike tour we have ever been on, and we have been on numerous around the world. The quad bikes were in great conditions and Don, the owner and guide, led us up to the peak then back down on fun narrow dirt trails.
Unlike the quad bike tour in Queenstown, we did not waste too much time with the practice runs. After just a few short loops, off we went up the hills. On the way back, we had to cross several streams which provided additional “adventures”.
I highly recommend anyone who are in Christchurch area to go on this half day tour.
After the quad bike tour, we drove to Akaroa and the next day, we went on the late morning 3-hours eBike Tour with Akaroa Sea Kayak Safari ( https://akaroakayaks.com/e-bike-kayak-tour-combo/ ) own by Allie & Greville Walsh. The weather was too windy for kayaking but it was great for the eMTB Tour.
This is definitely a MUST-DO if you are in Akaroa. Not only the eMTB that they provide are of the latest Scott model and the views at the top and along the way but Greville was really great. Not only he looked after our safety on sections of the roads and the fast descents, he also took the time to explain about local information and lore.
Too bad that we missed the kayaking but I am sure it would be just as much fun.
WE SHALL RETURN !!
We then flew back home to Bangkok from Christchurch via Auckland. Big Foot Tour gang enjoyed New Zealand, the landscapes, the activities, and the people so much that we have decided that we will return to different areas once a year. Now the trip to New Zealand’s North Island is already planned for November 2020