Our first 2 weeks trekking around the South Island of NZ
19.09.2011 11 °C
It was with sadness that we said farewell to Sydney, Australia and of course the Buckley's. However we were very excited to be heading to New Zealand, especially after hearing nothing but good things about the place.
Our first stop in NZ was Christchurch, we arrived late on the Tuesday evening and got a shuttle bus straight to our Hostel, the Kiwi Basecamp. In the morning we headed out to check out the city, and unsurprisingly it was a ghost town, most of the larger buildings were still in rubble while the Cathedral Square was completely closed off. We decided to buy some lunch from a nearby supermarket, get some new books to read and chill out at our hostel, which itself was full of workmen fixing the place from recent aftershocks.
The next day we decided to go to the Botanical Gardens, as they were a little out of the centre and therefore had not been impacted too much by all the recent seismic activity. The gardens themselves were lovely and peaceful, with the Rugby World Cup starting in a few days the council had set up a massive area for fans to watch games, so we checked that out too. In the end we sat by the River Avon and read our books which was nice.
On the Friday we checked out of the hostel and got a lift to the Airport, where we went to Jucy Rentals to pick up our Campervan (we've got it for 25 days and will drop it off in Auckland next month). The van is amazing, its got a fold-out double bed, dvd player, gas hob, sink, compressor fridge, mp3/cd player and is automatic transmission, which took us a little time to get used to! Oh, and we decided on calling the van Bruce! Haha!
With not much going on in Christchurch we thought it best to stock up on bits from the supermarket and get on out of there. The weather was gorgeous and we made our way to Arthur's Pass, way up in the mountains in the centre of the South Island (about 3 hours drive). When we got there we went for an hour trek to stretch our legs, then parked up in the Department of Conservation (DoC) campsite, which are government run sites that are very cheap (they're only $6, $10 or sometimes free).
After cooking some spaghetti for tea (yum), we went to the local pub, the Wobbly Kea, and sat down to watch the opening ceremony and first match of the Rugby World Cup with a beer. Great fun.
That first night was an eye opener for us, as there was a storm in the middle of the night and the temperature dropped to below freezing, so we realised we would have to wear more layers to be able to sleep lol!
The next day we were up early to make the 4 hour drive to Franz Josef on the West Coast, which is Glacier country. The weather was pretty horrid but we decided to brave it and make the 2 hour walk right to the foot of the Glacier, which was well worth it.
By the time we had trekked back to the van we were both soaking wet, but with a bit of planning we knew where to go next. The town has Hot Pools where you can go and chill out in outdoor pools that are between 36 and 40 degrees, amazing! We hired a private pool for an hour (along with private shower, toilet and changing room) and absolutely loved it – we may just have to save up for one of these at home! :-)
About an hours drive from Franz Josef is Fox Glacier, which is very similar to its neighbour, and we had originally planned to trek this however with the weather still horrible the next day we continued past it towards Wanaka, our next main stop. A few hours into the drive we decided to take a pitstop at Bruce Bay, merely because of the name, which was a long stretch of beach with big, thunderous waves crashing in. We only spent five minutes stretching our legs, but right near where we had parked was a little fur seal relaxing on the rocks. What a cutie!
The weather didn't pick up at all that day so we parked up for the night at Lake Paringa, a small DoC campsite with only a toilet to speak of. In the morning we arose to some gorgeous views of the lake, as the sun was out and the cloud was laying low over the water. One of the many amazing bits of scenery we've seen so far in New Zealand.
It took us a further 2 hour drive to make it to Wanaka, where we stayed at the Lake Outlet Holiday Park which had lovely views over the lake. The park also had great facilities, with nice showers, a large kitchen and internet, so we decided to stay for 3 nights overall.
One of the main highlights of Wanaka was walking the lake track around and into the town centre, which took us 4 hours to do. We went for a nice cup of English tea at a cafe overlooking the water, and in the evening headed to the Bombay Palace for a gorgeous Indian curry (we couldn't resist!)
On the Wednesday we were up very early as we got picked up and taken to the Treble Cone skiing resort about 30 minutes from Wanaka. We had always planned on doing some snowboarding in New Zealand, originally we were going to do it in nearby Queenstown. However one of the percs of getting a Jucy Rentals van is they offer free ski passes for Treble Cone, so we made the most of that!
We spent the whole day on the slopes, the snow was good, the weather was perfect, the views magnificent, it was a brilliant day!
After getting up the next day (and aching quite a lot – we're not as young as we used to be lol), we drove 90 minutes to Queenstown, NZ's 'adrenaline' capital. We parked up in the centre of town and went to look around. We ended up buying some fudge and chocolate from the British Lollie Shop, and for lunch we went to Queenstown's famous Fergburger, which we had been told about by quite a few kiwi's we have met on our travels.
The burgers we went for, called Mr Big Stuff, had 2 huge beef burgers (1/2 lb of meat), loads of bbq sauce, cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion and aioli sauce, and we can confirm they were AMAZING! :-)
That night we stayed at the Twelve Mile DoC campsite about 6km's outside of Queenstown, and chilled out in Bruce watching some Home Improvement on the dvd player (it's Tool Time! That was one of the two dvd's we took from Jucy)
Our mission the following day was to take the gondola ride up to the mountain overlooking Queenstown, which was well worth doing as the views up there were spectacular. We also went for a hot drink and cake in the skyline cafe, and got to see some people do the AJ Hackett bungy jump.
In our last blog we explained how Phil did his skydive in Sydney, as this was one of his main 'to-dos' for the whole trip. Kayleigh on the other hand had wanted to do the Shotover Canyon Swing which was 15 minutes away from Queenstown, so we booked this and went out the next day to jump!
The swing is the highest cliff jump in the world, at 109 metres, has a freefall distance of 60 metres and a total swing distance of 200 metres, awesome stuff! You may have seen the video on Facebook, but if not we did a forward tandem jump together, which was insane, loads of fun (get on there to have a look)! Kayleigh loved it so much she decided to do it again on her own, going for the 'Elvis Cutaway', where she was suspended facing the sky and they cut her loose when she was not expecting it, crazy!
We spent a total of 3 nights in Queenstown, and couldn't resist missing out on another Fergburger so we ended up having another one before we departed on the Sunday lol! Mmmmmm.
The next destination on our travels was Te Anau, on the South West coast, as we wanted to take a cruise to either Milford or Doubtful Sound. We had read that Milford Sound was the main tourist attraction in the country, while friends and family recommended we go to Doubtful Sound as its quieter (and better!) In the end, we made the decision to go to Doubtful Sound, and are totally glad we did.
We set out in the morning on a cruise across Lake Manapouri, then went to the Manapouri Hydro-Electric Power Station for a quick underground tour, before taking an hour bus trip across the Wilmot Pass (the most expensive road in NZ) to get to our boat that would take us on the Sound.
This may sound like quite a bit of effort, but by the time we made it to Doubtful Sound it was fabulous, huge valleys going into the water, low clouds making it look all atmospheric, just amazing.
We are now in Invercargill, on the Sourthern tip of the South Island, and have 2 weeks to make our way up to the North Island and Auckland, where we drop off Bruce and then head to Fiji. :-)
Speak to you all soon, loads of love,
Phil & Kayleigh