Tuesday, 23 November 2010
From Kaikoura, I travelled up to Picton to catch the ferry back to Wellington in the North Island, from there I travelled to Rotorua, stopping overnight before finally staying in Mount Maunganui for a few days to recover from 4 days of constant travelling, I am thoroughly fed up of sitting on a bus now! Mount Maunganui is a popular seaside resort town, it has the best beach in New Zealand after Abel Tasman. Mount Maunganui is a dormant volcano 232m tall. I climbed to the top for fantastic views of the town and the ocean, and then spent the following day relaxing on the beach as luckily it was a hot sunny day. Great training for Fiji next!
New Zealand has been a great place to travel around, the South island is so beautiful, and I have done some great adventure sports too. A fantastic 6 weeks!
Saturday, 20 November 2010
After leaving Christchurch, the next stop was Kaikoura. Something I have always wanted to do is swim with dolphins and Kaikoura is the best place to do this in New Zealand. The dusky dolphins are found year round in the Pacific Ocean next to Kaikoura because the ocean is so deep there. After being kitted out in a wetsuit, jacket, hat, snorkel and flippers, the boat took us out into the ocean from South Bay, Kaikoura. After only 15 minutes we spotted our first dolphin, then soon after a pod of over 100! We dove into the cold water and the dolphins swam around us, to keep them near us, we had to keep them entertained, so we sang to them, dived down and swam in circles mimicking their behaviour. It was thrilling for them to come so close to me, at times I could have reached out and touched them. After the pod moved on we clambered back on board the boat and looked for the next pod of dolphins. 5 minutes later we spotted another pod and got straight back in the water to play with them, they would flip in the air and swim round in circles under us, it was such good fun, I enjoyed every minute and thought how lucky I was to be able to swim with wild dolphins. We followed the dolphins for 3 hours, swimming in the ocean with them whenever we could, it was such a great afternoon, one of my favourite days in New Zealand.
Tuesday, 16 November 2010
After Queenstown we headed to Dunedin, meaning Edinburgh of the South, it's also the beer and chocolate capital of New Zealand, with a Speights brewery and Cadburys chocolate factory. The following morning, we walked up Baldwin street, which, according to the Guiness Book of Records, is the steepest street in the world. We then stopped off at the Moraki Boulders, huge spherical rocks scattered along the sea shore. We reached Lake Tekapo late afternoon and had a BBQ which was delicious, with homemade burgers, and hokey pokey icecream. Lake Tekapo is a good spot for star gazing and the night sky was wonderful, so many stars. I hiked up to Mount John summit, 1043m above sea level, the view was good but it was so windy, it took my breath away. My hostel is right by Lake Tekapo with views from my dorm room accross the lake, which is so beautiful. Lake Tekapo is home to two of New Zealands most photographed landmarks, the Church of the Good Shepherd and the Sheepdog statue. Not sure why!? After Queenstown, Lake Tekapo is a great spot to relax and take in the views.
We arrived in Christchurch early afternoon from Lake Tekapo, and took a short tour on the bus, it's a really pretty city, very English. The earthquake damage wasn't immediately visible, in the city centre, a few of the buildings have lost their roofs and the pavements are cordoned off to protect the public in case of falling tiles, but on the whole I wouldn't have known that an earthquake 7.1 on the Richter scale had happened here. I took a shower that evening, and felt the earth move! An aftershock rumbled through the building for several seconds and I started to wonder if I should get dressed and get under the door frame, no way was I running out naked! Luckily it stopped shortly after! It's quite a common occurence after a large quake. Christchurch is known as the English city, due to the gardens and buildings around the city, and the Avon river where you can go punting. I wandered round the Art gallery, the museum and the Botanic Gardens, with rose gardens and lily ponds, gorgeous. The following day I took a day trip to Akoroa, about an hour away from Christchurch by bus. It's a historic French and British settlement nestled in a beautiful harbour. It was a really hot sunny day and I strolled along the sea front to the lighthouse, stopping to browse in the local shops on the way, and then sunbathing in the park after lunch, a really great, lazy day.
Wednesday, 10 November 2010
After Franz Josef we headed further south to Queenstown, and discovered where all the people are! Queenstown is a very busy but small town and has everything you could ever want, plenty of adventure activities, gorgeous scenery and a great nightlife. Louisa and I took a day trip to Milford Sound which was beautiful, it was a 5 hour drive from Queenstown, passing through Te Anu on the way and then through some of the most spectacular scenery I have ever seen. Beautiful blue sparkling lakes with snow capped mountains as a backdrop. We took a boat cruise at Milford Sound, we saw lots of gushing waterfalls and even saw the rare yellow eyed penguin. Something else you have to do in Queenstown is try a Ferg Burger, it was enormous and so good, it's probably the best burger in the world! I had to go back the next day and have another! I also went hang gliding at Cornonet Peak, just outside Queenstown, as it was something I'd always wanted to do but never got round to it. With my instructor, I ran off the peak at 3,800 feet above the ground, that was the scariest bit! Once airborn it was brilliant, it really felt like flying, we were gliding for about 10 minutes, and then just before we landed we took some nose dives which made my stomach lurch, but added an extra thrill. Queenstown is situated on the edge of a huge lake, which we took a walk along and it has a small stony beach to chill out on too. It is definitely my favourite place in New Zealand. I spent 5 nights there and ended up going out drinking 4 of the 5 nights, the nightlife was so good!
Wednesday, 3 November 2010
After Nelson we headed down south along the west coast, stopping at the Punakaki pancake rocks on the way to Greymouth. The rocks are an unusual rock formation as the rocks look like a stack of pancakes. We stopped in Greymouth overnight, however there isn't much to do there apart from a brewery tour and then arrived in Franz Josef at lunchtime the following day. Louisa and I hiked to the Franz Josef Glacier car park and took the Douglas walk passing Peter's Pool on the way which had a great reflective view of the glacier. The following day we did a full days Glacier experience. We were equipped with waterproof jacket and trousers, hiking boots and socks, beanie hat and mittens, and of course crampons, that fasten onto your boots for gripping the ice. It was an hours walk to the foot of the glacier and there we attached our crampons, and our guide led us onto the glacier. My first few steps on the ice were tentative but the crampons gave fantastic grip and soon we were hiking up the first slope with ease. It got colder the further up we climbed, we went through the bottom of a steep gorge, the ice walls on either side were so narrow, it was a squeeze to fit through. Ice steps had been cut into the steep slopes with a fixed rope to pull ourselves up. We stopped for lunch on a rocky part of the glacier but after only 10 mintues we were so cold and keen to keep moving. We climbed down to an ice cave, the water dripping onto our heads from above, and then pulled ourselves up a rope on the other side. Having climbed about halfway up the glacier, about 500m above sea level, we then slowly made our way back down. It was a really enjoyable experience, despite the cold, and we spent around 6 hours on the glacier altogther, a really fantastic and memorable day.
Monday, 1 November 2010
It was a 3 hour ferry crossing to the south island, and after stopping for some wine tasting, we arrived in Nelson late afternoon. It's a really small city but really lovely and the gateway to the Abel Tasman National Park. We did a days hike in the park, taking a ferry from Kaiteriteri to Anchor Bay, and then tramping back along the coastal path to Marahau, a really beautiful walk, amazing blue waters and golden beaches. We headed out in the evening for a few drinks in the city centre dressed as witches for Halloween and discovered that Kiwis don't do that, there were very few others dressed up, but we had a good night. The following day we tramped up to the centre of New Zealand, which is up a very steep hill, but a great view, and then walked along the river and fell asleep in the sun. Fab!