Monday, 8 August 2011

NZ travelogue: Fun and frustration

So there I was in April, faced with the big task of planning our self-drive holidays in New Zealand's South Island. Effectively, there were only about six weeks for me to finalise everything. For the first time, it dawned on me that this planning was going to be a fun experience, it was guaranteed to be frustrating as well.

Fun in the sense that (almost) everything would be under my control: the search for a perfect itinerary to fit into the days we would be there and the search for decent places to stay within our budget. But on the other hand, frustration in many areas, such as deciding the driving route and the booking of accommodation for every night of our travel.

The earthquake in Christchurch in February caused us some initial worries because we were uncertain of the effects on our holiday. But I determined early that we need not stay for long in the city itself; the peripheral of the city was largely unaffected and besides, Christchurch would only a base for us to get in and out of the country.

Our flight would arrive at Christchurch airport late at night. We would stay in a motel nearby and the next morning, collect the rental car and drive away from the city. As simple as that. And renting the car was easy enough. I just had to pay a deposit through the Internet.

With that settled, my thoughts turned now to our itinerary. Originally, I wanted to travel through the Canterbury plains and visit Mt Cook and from there onward to Queenstown, Te Anau, Dunedin and back to Christchurch.

Then I investigated an alternative route through the Arthur's Pass that could take us to Greymouth and down the island's west coast to Wanaka, then to Queenstown, Dunedin and back to Christchurch. But I had to give up that idea when I read that the weather in May could be unpredictable on the west coast at that time of the year and thus, it might not be a good time to travel along there. Better be safe than sorry.

Besides, there weren't enough days for us. I didn't want a holiday where the driving took up all our our time and left us with little time to do anything else.

So it was back to my original route. But now, I decided to vary it by visiting Mt Cook, Wanaka, Queenstown, Dunedin and Oamaru. Everything would fit nicely into an eight-day, seven-night schedule. Although it was recommended, we didn't even need to stay overnight in Queenstown if we don't want to.

Now came the real frustrating part: deciding where to stay. My wife agreed that we should have a mixture of accommodation. Staring every night at the motel ceilings weren't so appealing. So I started looking into possible alternatives like inns and homestays. While some replies were positive, many turned out unavailable. A few didn't even bothered to reply my emails. Nevertheless, by the end of April, I had pre-booked all our accommodations. We were now set.

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