Posts Tagged With: South Island

Top of the South

After saying a fond farewell to Wanaka, where we’d felt semi-local after our one month working there, it was nice to head off exploring on our own again. Although our first day involved covering ground we’ve already seen, we had our first experience of hitch hiking, which was surprisingly easy and didn’t end up with us murdered in a ditch! After less than 10 minutes of smiling nicely and trying not too look dodgy, we were picked up by 6 friendly guys in their camper-van who kindly took us to Queenstown to pick up a hire car. Easy peasy.

Hitchin' a ride

Hitchin’ a ride

We then headed north for the top of the South Island to explore the Marlborough-Nelson region which we haven’t seen yet. Luckily for us my Mum’s cousin, Amanda and her lovely husband Matt and children Jess and Joel emigrated to NZ ten years ago, and even though we’ve never met, they very kindly looked after us for three days. We had a lovely time, being fed some wonderful home cooked food, discussing Tolkien and Doctor Who and were given a locals tour of Nelson – a beautiful city right on the sea and surrounded by mountains. We can definitely see why they chose to live here!

Meeting extended family in Nelson

Meeting extended family in Nelson

Sunny Nelson

Sunny Nelson

We also spent a day walking part of the Abel Tasman Great Walk, which is in a stunning national park, with incredible golden sand beaches and green forests which come right up to the waters edge. We took a water taxi 12km to Torrent Bay and walked the coastal and bush footpath back to the start.

Split Apple Rock

Split Apple Rock

Heading off on the Abel Tasman track

Heading off on the Abel Tasman track

The Abel Tasman National Park

The Abel Tasman National Park

We then headed off on our own into the Marlborough Sounds and went via the Pelorus river where the barrels scene from the Hobbit was filmed. It looks just like the movie (minus a few dwarfs) and was really beautiful.

Pelorus Bridge

Pelorus Bridge

We then stayed in a cabin right by the water for two nights. We had a fun time in the owner’s boat, after working out how not to sink it by remembering to put the plug at the bottom in.

Gently down the stream

Gently down the stream

Sunset in the Marlborough Sounds

Sunset in the Marlborough Sounds

After a few grey days, we had some beautiful sunshine and climbed up to an awesome look out point where we could see over a huge amount of the sounds and over to Picton where the Wellington ferries arrive. This is a beautiful area and definitely one to spend more time in one day.

The look out over to Picton and the interislander ferries

The look out over to Picton and the interislander ferries

We had a final night in Picton before saying goodbye to the South Island for the next 6 weeks – we’ll be back to watch the All Blacks in Dunedin in June. We caught the ferry in the sunshine and headed onto our next place of work in Wellington.

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The Van – Part 1

Not long after arriving in New Zealand, somewhere around day 2 of being stuck at a motel in Kawerau, we realised that having a car here is quite useful. You can drive and stop and where you want, and they use the proper side of the road. So, for the last week or so, we’ve been roadtripping around the South Island, driving and stopping where we want, in a camper van.

Our new home

Our new home

We picked up our van in Christchurch, and just as the city’s worst floods in years were hitting we drove away across the Canterbury Plains. They are beautiful wide open spaces apparently, but I was too busy wrestling to stay on the road through the wind and rain to notice! The weather calmed down as we got inland though, and for our first stop we drove over a cheeky few kilometres of gravel roads to reach Mount Potts Station.

New Zealand roads...

New Zealand roads…

There were no other tourists around, and the place is quite off the beaten track. It also happens to be home to Mount Sunday, the location used as Edoras, capital of Rohan in The Two Towers. It is one of the more iconic locations of the trilogy, and required very little CGI. So when we rounded the last bend, we saw the flat valley, ringed by snow capped mountains and the smallish, stump of a hill in the middle, exactly like the films, I worried the trip had peaked too soon! We walked from our campsite to the hill and climbed, and were the only people in sight. We didn’t get to use replica swords like the official tours, but having Edoras to ourselves was pretty magical.

Edoras, Rohan, Middle-Earth

Edoras, Rohan, Middle-Earth

Enjoying some privacy in Edoras

Enjoying some privacy in Edoras

The next day we moved on to Lake Tekapo, camping at the base of Mount John. The lake is stunning, amazingly blue and green and reflects the mountains around it. That night was nice and clear, and the area is famous for its big sky and lack of light pollution – the stars were amazing, even if the lack of cloud cover meant it was a bit chilly in the van! We got up early the next day and hiked quickly up to the top of Mount John for the 360 degree views of the lakes and mountains, and then were rewarded with a half price trip to the hot springs!

Lake Tekapo

Lake Tekapo

From Tekapo we drove to Aoraki/Mount Cook, the tallest peak in Australasia. We camped right near the base of Mount Sefton, and spent the next couple of days tramping and walking around the mountains, rivers and glaciers in the area. At the end of one walk, we reached a lake formed by a glacier retreating. Mount Cook was right in front of us, and at the far end of the lake the glacier was slowly breaking off into icebergs which we sat and watched float around. It was stupefyingly awesome.

Mt Cook

Mt Cook

Mini icebergs, glacier, Mount Cook. Whatever.

Mini icebergs, glacier, Mount Cook. Whatever.

After filling a memory card with photos that will never do justice to the views, we headed off back to the east coast, going against the tourist traffic, and drove all the way southeast to Oamaru. After being in the wild for a few days it was nice to be in a coastal town, especially one famous for its cheese factory (we had a few samples), it’s very Victorian architecture, and most bizarrely for steampunk. We also visited Dunedin, a really cool university city which we will definitely try and get back to, where we did some learning of our own at the excellent Settlers Museum, all about the early Scottish colonists who founded the city.

To end our first full week, we spent a couple of days driving around the Catlins National Park, way down in the southeast. It feels pretty end of the worldy in many ways, and there are very few other tourists (or even people) down there. Law found us an awesome little campsite to park at in a place called Curio Bay, where we were in an enclosed area of flax grass right on the edge of the cliff overlooking the sea. Curio Bay is on one side of the headland, and is famous for its 180 million year old petrified forest of fossilised tree stumps (amazing), and even more amazing, it’s Yellow-eyed Penguin colony! Wrapped up warm against the roaring 40’s wind, we watched for a couple of hours as penguins got out of the sea and waddled inland to their nests.

#PenguinSelfie

#PenguinSelfie

On the other side of the headland is Porpoise Bay, a perfect sandy, half-moon crescent beach which gets it’s name from the Hector Dolphins that play around in the surf. We watched them jump and swim for a while, before I decided to brave the cold (it’s not that far from Antarctica here) and go for a dip. I swam around for a bit and two of the dolphins got gradually closer, until I could see them about 5 metres or so away. I was the only person in the sea. It was amazing.

Me and the camera-shy dolphins

Me and the camera-shy dolphins

Basically, in just over a week we’ve seen and done loads, way more than I can fit in here. The scenery is stunning everywhere, literally every bend in the road is photo-worthy, our bed is nice and comfy, cooking on the gas stove or in the camp kitchens is fun, we climbed Edoras, saw glaciers and icebergs, saw penguins, swam with dolphins, climbed around at Aslan’s Camp, visited the very end of the country and we still have two weeks left in this van.

Elephant Rocks AKA Aslan's Camp

Elephant Rocks AKA Aslan’s Camp

Lunchtime

Lunchtime

Van with a view

Van with a view

Categories: New Zealand | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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