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Real Journeys NZ ..'The Cool Gran'

Last week I got flown to Queenstown New Zealand to play the ‘cool gran’ for Real Journeys NZ latest advertising campaign.

If you haven’t been to New Zealand, (like me) you can possibly imagine how beautiful the South island is but believe me

when you're actually there its beyond comprehension how absolutely magnificent it really is.

Mind you, I come from the highlands of Tasmania, which is pretty glorious, but my little mountains just don't really have a patch on

the glory I witnessed down there in the Southland.

I flew in to Queenstown in a slight drizzle, there was a fresh snow dump on the mountains surrounding the town from the night I stepped off the plane

the fresh air literally took my breath made me smile with delight…and I quietly congratulated myself on buying that Gortex coat from Kathmandu..and the Uniqlo thermals i wore underneath.

I love the cold but you need to be warm to enjoy it.

After dropping my bags at the hotel my dear friend Benn Jae (who who was responsible for putting me forward for the gig and the Photographer/Director for the shoot) picked me up to head down town to the

Real Journeys head office to meet the marketing lovelies, Ciara, Christina & Daniella and have a wardrobe fitting with uber talented and ace Makeup Artist/Stylist Stacy Dunn.

Being the Stylist I am I'd brought a heap of wardrobe choices for her to choose from..couldnt help myself co-ordinating looks for her to choose from.

Here are a few of them for your travel wardrobe inspo.

I met the rest of the crew and we all chatted about the weather and how we hoped for a good day to shoot the following day as the schedule was pretty ambitious.

Even though the forecast was rain we agreed to pray to the Maori weather gods for sunshine.

I headed home for an early night ..the Novotel Lakeside was clean and warm, the bed firm and the pillows soft, just the way I like them.

I slept like a top and woke to the most beautiful dawn which developed into the blue skies we had all prayed for.

Excitedly I walked through the town past the harbour back to Real Journeys office for hair and makeup.

Meeting the other cast members the lovely Katie and her partner Will we chatted and discussed our back story to make our little family feel real and bonded for our days shoot to come.

Once our hair and makeup was complete we boarded the TSS Earnslaw the most magnificent steam ship with all our wardrobe and gear to start shooting. Cant tell you how lovely this old steamship was.. heres a little of its history.

**The TSS Earnslaw is a 1912 Edwardian vintage twin screw steamer, she is affectionately named “The Lady of the Lake” she plies the waters of Lake Wakatipu.

She is one of the oldest tourist attractions in Central Otago, and the only remaining commercial passenger-carrying coal-fired steamship in the southern hemisphere.

There's a gallery of photos in the bow of the ship well worth checking out, she used to ferry sheep and goods around Otago and then it was decked out as a passenger ship, very deco with a Mens smoking Room and a room for the Ladies to rest (and undoubtedly undo their corset straps).

There were a few other ships on the lake back in the day but they were all scuttled and now rest at the bottom of the lake. The Earnslaw almost ended up there too but thanks be to Lady Olive and Les Hutchins she was saved and now is owned and run by Real Journeys to traverse Lake Wakatipu daily taking passengers to the end of the lake to Walter Peake Station.

Ahhh this leads me to Walter Peake..dear god, the food, the views, the animals, the serenity!! Day or eve once you disembark the The Earnslaw you’re greeted by the amazing staff, wether its by the catering staff for an unforgettable meal inside The Lodge or by the farm staff for a wander up to see sheep shearing or view the other beasties that inhabit the station you’ll have an incredible time.

We shot all over the station throughout the course of the afternoon, we were joined by Ari our pretend son/grandson to complete the family picture..he was adorably cute and suitably impressed by all the beasts we shot with, dogs, sheep, cows and alpacas.

Back to The Lodge we shot around a huge spread for dinner in front of an open fire, Seafood was thrown in to the mix for dinner too and the size of the buffet was remarkable, the wine to match…ahhhhh who can say you actually get to drink on a job, well the whole crew then sat down to dinner and congratulated ourselves on an epic days shoot.

The sunshine carried on till the end of the day and we all really had to pinch ourselves we were so blessed to have such a stunning day.

The next day I had a day to myself ..I wandered around Queenstown and sat and read on the edge of the pristine lake watching tourists bustle here and there, children laughing, the smell of food and good coffee abounded.

The shops are everything you might need, large and small and so many restaurants catering to any tourists wish.

I then took a trip up to the Skydeck via gondola..its a pretty incredible view of Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu to be sure..

I watched people bungy jumping for a while and marvelled at the views. I went to bed early that night pretty excited as the next morning I was leaving for Milford Sound.

So I was totally thankful Real Journeys sent me on one of their experiences to Milford Sound..for an overnight stay on the Milford Mariner, I’m not normally a lover of bus rides but let me tell you that bus ride to the Sound captained by Brian was 5 hours of wonderful.

above photos: @luckylfe

As we marvelled at the views out the window of the bus Brian told us story after story of Maori Legend. He gave us so many gems along the way about the farmland, and the animals that are farmed. Lambing season showed us thousands of sheep dropping lambs along the way in the verdant fields.

Looking up at the rows and rows and rows of white capped mountains I thought i would never tire of those peaks.

We stopped at a sweet little town TeAnau

to drop off passengers who were heading over to take the overnight trip to Doubtful Sound (another trip I hope to make another time)

we lunched there and picked up a few more passengers including Penelope, a lovely lady from Auckland who had visited Milford 60 years earlier and was making a pilgrimage of sorts back to Milford.

Stopping along the way several times Brian sent us on little walks through natural wonders to once again board the bus.

I think the highlight was standing in front of the peaks featured in Alien can see my smile, Ive lost my top lip which only ever happens when I’m beyond excited.

And, thanks to Brian for capturing those photos of me so well ;) and, possibly the other highlight was meeting and laughing at the Kea Birds, my my my what cheeky little buggers they are. Like gremlins (who you shouldn’t wet) you mustnt feed them. They turn into crazy brats, seriously, google it ;)

Once again Brian told us many a story about how the road was built and the tunnel through to the Sound was made, of the Milford Track and the many ways to get to Milford proper. As we emerged out of the tunnel the sight of the winding road down to the Sound was epic, looking up at the walls of rock, the seemed so imposing it made me wonder how on earth those families of the original drillers who made the tunnel and built the road must have been made of stern stuff to see the winters out without modern day comforts.

As Brian dropped us at the Visitors Centre to board the Mariner he confidently told us he would be there waiting for us 24 hours later.

Ah the Mariner!! what an absolute beauty we boarded her and were greeted by a fab crew who served us afternoon tea and handed out our cabin keys, the cabins were small, warm and perfectly formed with their own ensuite bathrooms.

My cabin synchronously but not surprisingly was next to Penelopes we had formed a bond already chatting about her life and travels upstairs while we consumed afternoon tea..I had developed a sincere admiration for her and her attitude to life and travel.

Next we were invited to jump on a Tender Craft or a kayak to tour around the edges of the Sound,

I chose the Tender craft

and so glad I did, it was invigorating to be sure! We sighted some seals and our Nature guide talked of the local flora and fauna expertly. It was a pretty picture to look back at the Mariner as we sped off down the Sound.

Back on the Mariner I had a few wines and chatted more with Penelope about her life and travels, we sat down at a table with a couple who looked interesting for dinner..funny story and another synchronous we were chatting with Laxman and Deepa we four hadn’t noticed that the table were actually allotted to cabin numbers until we were halfway through a delicious dinner.

Ha, Penelope was cabin 25, next to her I was cabin 27 and wouldnt you know it our new friends were Cabin 29, three ducks in a row eh?

I chatted with them all well into the night about life, the universe, space, photography, we rambled over religion, travel and the fourth dimension.

I felt like i was sitting with three of the smartest people I’d ever met. Adding to my journey three fold, trebly blessed.

I woke the next morning in the dark at 5am and was so excited to watch the dawn spread across Milford Sound I got up and dressed made a triple coffee and wandered around the sleepy vessel all by myself.

As there is no reception down there (fyi it stops at TeAnau) I had no real idea of what time dawn was meant to be so i just sat and watched as the dark silhouette of the surrounding mountains of the sound became more and more bathed with light.

Eventually as the others woke and milled around the deck the skies became brighter and brighter and the dawn tinged with a hint of pink and lavender revealed themselves.

Our Captain then headed us out down the Sound to where it meets the Tasman Sea. It was breezy and fresh and made my cheeks pink with excitement.

Once done we turned around and wound our way back down the Sound to the dock, stopping along the way to view penguins and waterfalls running down the cliffs, soaking some of us who were brave to stand under it.

Back off the boat I swapped details with my new friends and there was Brian as promised ready to ferry us back on the bus to Queenstown…the return trip didn’t disappoint, we had a few more stops on the way back to view some natural splendour and a few more naughty Kea Birds to chuckle at.

Wow, another amazing Real Journeys experience, I couldnt recommend it more highly..truly the 8th wonder of the world.

Booked into a little hotel I’d found on the internet for the night, the MiPad, stunning, newly built, reasonably priced, small but perfectly formed.

Met Benn and his gorgeous mum Vickie for drinks first at the gorgeous Lodge Bar and then a fabulous steak dinner at The Grille by Eichardt's and to be truthful lovers as much as I would have liked to party on in QueenstownI was knackered so I said my goodbyes and walked back through the bustling town to MiPad to have an awesome nights sleep.

Waking once again to beautiful blue skies Benn picked me up to take me to Arrowtown, the cutest little gold mining town with a mainstreet of weatherboard shops and eateries…the best breakfast ever at The chop Shop including black pudding..and the best organic bacon. Then it was off to the airport to say goodbye.

So all in all what a wonderful 6 days!! Thank you Benn and a huge thankyou to Real Journeys and their amazing marketing staff and ground staff. I was totally spoilt and to think I was actually paid to be there is just silly.

One thing I know, I’ll be back for if you are planning a trip to New Zealand hit up the good folks at Real Journeys to plan some out of this world experiences!