Friday, December 6, 2019

New Zealand - Kalos Golf - December 4, 2019

This is the radar screen of Queenstown this morning.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Rain, rain ... go away!  It's still pouring in Queenstown this morning with no end in sight.  Our original plan was a helicopter ride to Milford Sound with a stop at the top of a glacier.  That's not happening so we're going to plan B.

Since it’s unexpectedly wet and cold here, our goal this morning was to find some clothes to keep us warm and dry.  We marched past the crowds at Fergburger, lined up despite the rain.  We were wet and cold and on a mission. 

I think Nazy would NOT approve of this choice.  

I know we made some decisions today that won’t mesh with our fashion consultant/organizer/friend, Nazy.  But this was an all out, no holes barred, emergency.  We found a sporting goods store and loaded up on Merino wool sweaters, down filled vests, waterproof jackets, socks and gloves.  For what it’s worth, the merino wool was born here, raised here and manufactured here.  We layered up in the store with our new goods and I was finally warm for the first time since we arrived.  I felt a bit like the kid on The Christmas Story who couldn’t lower his arms after putting on his snow suit.  But I’m finally warm and water proof. 

After the imminent danger of freezing was over, AND we’d hit every shop in Queenstown, we began to work on Plan B.

Stevie’s son visited a ranch in New Zealand earlier this year and he said it was pretty cool and that we should check it out.  So we set off for the Queenstown Airport to hop on a helicopter to Minaret Station.  We had no idea what to expect other than it would be something different from the rain in Queenstown.  

Our pilot, Toby and his sidekick David greeted us.  I have to admit, I was a bit nervous about flying on a day like this.  After all, if the helicopter sightseeing flights were grounded ...

But Toby and David seemed confident enough.  We took off and headed north.  The helicopter bobbed and weaved through the mountains, and valleys.  Flying in a helicopter with Toby was like being in the cockpit with Maverick in Top Gun.  He would bank hard left to miss the side of a mountain that looked close enough to touch.  The G-Force took my breath away.  When we reached the flooded area of Lake Wanaka, we spotted some locals making the best of a bad situation.  They were water skiing behind a pick up truck.  We circled around to watch the spectacle.  It was a flashback of my redneck roots in Arkansas.  Hilarious!  They enjoyed the helicopter audience and performed for us while we hug above them. 

Toby flew the chopper through valleys, staying well below the weather, making his way to Minaret Station.
We followed the valleys to Minaret Station to stay below the clouds.  
Our ride.
The main lodge at Minaret.

Another 10 minutes later, we arrived at a gorgeous setting in a glacier carved valley surrounded by steep snow capped mountains, in the middle of absolutely nowhere, Minaret Station.  The only way to get here is by helicopter.  This peaceful, stunningly beautiful, serene setting is our home away from the Sofitel for the next two days. 

These gorgeous chalets surround the main lodge.  Walkways extend for miles through the 60,000 acre ranch.  For a few moments, we had a glimpse of blue sky.
I have to admit, I was a bit skeptical about coming out here, trying to figure out what would be so special about sitting out here in the rain as opposed to Queenstown in the rain.  I was wrong.  This place is beyond gorgeous!!  And the staff at Minaret Station is attentive, with happy, sincere smiles.  


Minaret Station (Station is another word for Ranch) is touted as the most luxurious hunting camp in the world.  People come here from around the world to hunt Chamiox, Tahr, Elk, and Red Deer.  These animals grow larger than normal here because of the lush surroundings and ample food.  Also known for it’s hiking, fishing, sightseeing and heli skiing, it’s the perfect setting for family or friends to gather.  

Did I mention the wind was blowing HARD??!!

We ran outside between waves of rain for a quick photo.  Sleet was falling just a few minutes earlier.  We bought Minaret Beanie Hats to help keep warm.
Also a great spot for honeymooners, whom coincidentally, we met here. A lovely couple from Mexico, Jose and Mariel were just married in San Miguel Allende.  After a Polynesian cruise, they arrived at Minaret Station yesterday for a few days.  Next, they are headed to Melbourne and then on to Hamilton Island in Australia.  What a honeymoon!!  I'd consider getting married again just to honeymoon like this. Wait, I've been so blessed, I can do that WITHOUT the ball and chain!!   Ha!!  

Mariel & Jose, the newly weds.

We arrived in the rain and it rained the entire time we were at Minaret Station.  Even in the rain, the setting was beautiful.  Waterfalls cascade off the mountain all around the lodge.  We would have gone on a walk along the path, if it hadn't been so darn cold and rainy.  Actually, it sleeted and snowed.  Didn't bother us as we were comfortable inside the lodge in front of a roaring fire with a lovely glass of Chardonnay and dog whistles.  
Fresh flower and the fireplace.

This fire was in the library.
Ok.  Some of us learned how to use the dog whistles, used by sheep herders to direct the dogs, telling them where to send the herds of sheep with different tones of the whistle.  Some of us didn't get it.  I won't mention any names here.  But there were only 4 of us at the lodge and I'm not counting the honeymoon couple.  So ask me to whistle for you when I get home.  It's kind of tricky and I'll bet most of you will have trouble with it.

Ivan with his homemade granola

Our chef, Ivan, was phenomenal.  The dinner he prepared was over the top.  By far the best meal we've had in New Zealand.  We began with a White Bait Fritter, a New Zealand speciality.  Followed by Duck breast and then Venison filets.  For dessert, he prepared an apple crisp with homemade salted Carmel ice cream.  Everything Ivan cooks is prepared from scratch.  He doesn't have the luxury of importing ice cream or any kind of pre-prepared foods.  He even makes his own sausages for breakfast, which I'll talk about later.  I asked Ivan if he was married and if he'd want to move to Florida.  He wouldn't give me an answer ... which is usually an unspoken hard pass.  

Venison Filet

Duck Breast

There is no tv at Minaret.  So we have to entertain ourselves with things like meaningful conversation and cocktails.  Easy breezy.  Mariel and Jose shared photos of their wedding and described the event in detail.  It sounded like the event of the year.  And I'm sure it had a price tag to go along with that.

Jose decanted a very special bottle of wine from his Grandfather’s collection.  He was kind enough to share it with Stevie and I.

I’m not a wine connoisseur, but I’m told that this bottle of  1995 Chateau Lafite Rothschild is pretty high on a collector’s list.

It's amazing how sitting in front of a fire on a rainy day with a glass or two, wait maybe it was a bottle or two of Chardonnay can exhaust one!  As soon as we finished dinner, we were off to bed in our beautiful chalet.  The room was furnished with sheared fleece  headboards, sheep skin rugs, possum fur throws on the beds, hot water for a variety of teas, warm cookies and chocolates.  Sweet!!  All of which I appreciated for about 5 minutes before my eyelids closed.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

The next morning, (cue wildlife) I awoke to three does munching the grass just outside the chalet.  A buck wandered by a few minutes later.   This was like something out of a movie. 

Ivan prepared breakfast for us this morning.  Homemade bread, muffins, fresh fruit, homemade granola, including a chocolate paleo granola, freshly squeezed orange juice, and homemade jams.  That was BEFOFE the delicious hot meal he prepared.  I had Avocado toast on homemade bread with chorizo sausage (Ivan made the sausage too) topped with a perfect sunny side up egg. Stevie had Eggs Benedict with salmon.  Again, I asked Ivan if he was married.  No response other than an adorable cheek blush.

Avocado Toast with Chorizo Sausage & Sunny Side Up Egg.

Salmon Eggs Benedict.

Time to head back to Queenstown.

The rain continued all day and we were scheduled to fly back to Queenstown to meet our Kalos group.  Around 11:00, we boarded our helicopter and lifted off for Queenstown, with a short stop in Wanaka for a quick look around.  

Leaving Minaret Station.  Kate and Ivan are flying home too.

For the first time in days, the sun shone brightly.  But sadly, Wanaka was flooded.  Shops on the Main Street were laden with sandbags to keep the water out of shops and Main Street was closed to traffic.  The heavy rains for days have swollen Lake Wanaka beyond her normal bounds.  Wanaka is a cute little town and I'm sure if it weren't in an emergency situation, we would have enjoyed the stop.  

We stopped at Rippon Vineyard in Wanaka.  In the distance, WAY across Lake Wanaka, we can see the lake front boundary of Minaret Station’s 60,000 acre track.

We arrived back to a sunny Queenstown.  Blue sky ... finally!
The sun followed us as we arrived in Queenstown.  First sunny day we've had since arriving.  Queenstown is a quaint, colorful little town, sister city to Aspen, Colorado.  It's pretty on a rainy day, but really shines with the sun.  As we walked the streets of Queenstown, we noticed the shopkeepers were preparing for Lake  Wakatipu to breach it's bounds just like Lake Wanaka.  Sandbags line the streets as boats in the marina cling to moorings and bang against the docks that are already under water.  I hope the few hours of sun can stop the flood.

Workers load sand bags to try to hold back the rising lake.

Sandbags are ready for the flood.

This boat was slamming against the dock, which is almost submerged.  It will be interesting to see if it’s still afloat tomorrow after the beating it’s taking.  No fenders to keep it off the pilings.

Lake Wakatipu is creeping up the sea walls. These stairs are normally high and dry.

Stevie and I did a little shopping today.  I’ve been looking for a possum throw to replace the one that was lost in my move from Hermosa Beach.  We found the spot, met the owner and ordered a piece to be made from fresh winter pelts that have just arrived.  It should be made and shipped within a couple of weeks.  So excited as this was the only purchase I intended to make while in New Zealand.  The Possum is a considered an invasive pest here in New Zealand.  Unlike the O’Possum in the U.S.  The New Zealand Possum has a gorgeous pelt like a mink.  I know there are some haters out there who don’t believe in fur.  I mean no disrespect to you, so don’t disrespect me either.  I love fur.

Lunch at the Pier on the waterfront of Lake Wakatipu.

After shopping, Stevie and I had lunch at the Pier, a restaurant right on the water.  We had a ringside seat to watch the tourist sightseeing boats clinging to the moorings and banging against the dock that is already under water.  Shopkeepers were anxiously loading bags with sand to barricade their doors.  Lake Wakatipu continues to rise as the rain water is pouring off the mountains.  It’s not expected to crest for another few days.  Hopefully, the rain will stop.

We returned to the hotel in time for our Kalos meet and greet.  This is the first opportunity we’ve had to meet our group.  Stevie and I said our hellos and then headed to The Grill for dinner.  Dinner was mediocre at best.  

Dinner at The Grill.  Best part was the people watching as people walked alongside the lake just outside the our window.

After a long day of dodging rain, shopping, and walking around Queenstown, it was time to call it quits for the evening.  Our first round of golf is tomorrow and I need all the help I can get.  So it’s off to bed.  Stay tuned.

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