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June 15, 2006

Rest of the South Island

After a very drunken end of season party, we did a whirlwind tour of the rest of the South Island and as you can imagine it was very beautiful!

We set off all 3 of us from Motueka in the pouring rain, happy to be leaving but still slightly hungover from 2 days before! We travelled down the West Coast which is not known for it's dry weather but we were actually quite lucky and didn't see much rain. We stopped off at Punakaiki which is famous for its Pancake Rocks and Blowhole. Basically, its a load of limestone rocks that look like a lot of pancakes stacked on top of each other and if there is a good tide, the sea surges into caverns below the rocks and spurts out blowholes. The sun was setting as we got there and the dusk made everything seem very eerie. The blowhole wasn't going but the waves crashing down below were still pretty spectacular. We spent the night in Hokitika which is famous for its greenstone and theres not much here except Jade Factories. As its winter season the hostel was very quiet with only 7 of us staying there in total, so the three of us got a dorm all to ourselves - private room at dorm rates, very nice! We're finding Winter a very nice time to travel -the week before we left Motueka, Tiago and I went to the Independent Cinema and had the place all to ourselves, private screening, on a Saturday night as well!

Next day we drove to the Glaciers - spectacular! The drive there was very scenic as well as we could see the Southern Alps covered in snow for the whole drive. There are loads of glaciers in NZ but the 2 most famous are Franz Josef & Fox Glacier - I don't really understand all the science behind it but apparently there is no other glaciers in the world at that latitude advancing so close to the sea. They are also advancing very quickly as well. We walked to t he bottom of Franz Josef for a look but decided to stay at Fox Glacier and climb it rather than Franz, cos its cheaper! We chose the full day walk and it was totally awesome but we wish we'd only done the half day walk instead! We had to wear crampons on our boots and follow our guide -there was about 9 in our group. We had to walk through the bush for about 1 hour before we arrived onto the ice, then for the first 20 mins or so there is steps cut into the ice which makes it quite easy, after that it gets difficult. It was fantastic to be up there on the glacier and it was very beautiful but at times, it was really scary! We had to jump over some crevices and climb up quite high,plus it was really really cold! At one point Tiago tripped and nearly fell down a large hole - terrifying! Still enjoyed it though and really glad we had the experience. Whilst staying at Fox, we walked to Lake Matheson which has one of the most famous views in NZ. Mt Cook - the highest mountain in Australasia - is perfectly reflected in Lake Matheson on a clear day, it was like a mirror image.

Next stop Queenstown but a quick stop in Wanaka on the way. Actually, we didn't really see any of Wanaka, we just went to Puzzling World which was so much fun! There was a 2 level maze, holographic photographs, the Hall of Followinf Faces, a tilted room and LOADS of puzzles you could play in the cafe, which totally messed with your head! Awesome! We didn't do much at all in Queenstown as we were on a very tight budget and there is nothing to do in Queenstwn unless you pay for it. Tiago's friend, Gabriel, lives here so we went out for a few drinks. Our hostel had a free hot tub so we took advantage of that as well.

We left Rafael in Queenstown cos he's going to look for work here, whilst Tiago & I drove to Te Anau. We'd booked a tour from here to Milford Sound - the road is prone to heavy snow fall and avalanches so from June onwards it is a legal requirement to carry snow chains if you're driving this road - too much hassle for us so we booked the tour instead. Very spectacular scenery along the way - snow covered mountains, mirror lakes and lots of Keas -little parrots that try to eat the rubber off all the cars! The weather was totally crap when we went, pouring with rain. We took a cruise on the Sound and it is very beautiful but the weather spoiled it a bit as we had to stay inside the boat. Stayed in a fabulous backpackers that night, on a deer farm. We had our own little cottage at hostel prices! Lovely big log fire in the main building where the kitchen & dining room were and a free pool table which kept Tiago happy.

Next stop the Catlins, the place I was most looking forward to as there is lots of cool wildlife there and I really wanted to see a penguin in the wild. We stayed the night in a very dodgy backpackers in Invercargill, which is right at the very bottom of the South Island, so we could start early the next day. Spent most of the night awake incase someone tried to steal our car! Although the Catlins was amazing, we didn't get to see a lot of the things due to various things against our control. The McLean Falls were closed as a flood had swept away the bridge and footpath to access them. The Cathedral Caves were closed until the next day cos you can only access them at low tide and it was at night. We didn't see the fossilised forest at Curio Bay cos the tide was in and we didnt see penguins there either cos it was too early in the day and they were all out fishing! We did see the best waterfalls in the Catlins, which are the Purakaunui Falls, three tiered waterfalls. And we did see 4 sea lions playing on a beach at Waipapa Point, which was the most amazing thing! We then drove to see Jacks Blowhole which is unusual as its in the middle of paddock, 200m from the sea but connected by a cavern. When we got there it was raining so hard and the sign said it was a 30 min walk. I didn't want to go but Tiago insisted as we hadn't seen much else. So we trudged through very muddy farmland & up slippery hills until there was not a part of us that wasn't wet - the wind was blowing a gale and still no blowhole so I politely (not) told Tiago I wasn't going any further! We couldn't find a backpackers and we were wet through and very cold. Eventually we found a holiday park but with no one in reception so we ended up sleeping in the car in the ground there! We did manage to get a hot shower and there was a kitchen and warm tv lounge we could use. Sleeping in the car was the coldest time if my life I'm sure - we had a duvet and blanket but still absolutely freezing! Next morning we drove to Nugget Point to try to see some penguns but again we were too early, We did see 10 seals lying on the rocks, we couldn't get near them but we were able to zoom in and get some good photos.

Next onto Dunedin, the Scottish city and home of the steepest street in the world ( it is unbelievable). We drove round the Otago Peninsula (very pretty) to try to see these bloody elusive penguins but again we were out of luck, we gave up on them then, stick to the zoo I say. Spent 2 nights here, nice backpackers had double rooms like a hotel room rather than a hostel and also home to a ghost but we didn't have the pleasure of meeting that! Dundedin was a nice city but absolutely freezing so we tried not to spend too much time outdoors. They have a nice Cathedral and a cool statue of Rabbie Burns and a very over priced Scottish shop where they sell cans of Irn Bru for $3!!!!! We decided to go ice skating cos Tiago had never been before and we ended up having the whole rink to ourselves!! Such a giggle!

We drove back to Queenstown the next day so we could leave the car with Rafael to sell, saw lots of snow on the way, which was a very nice end to our trip. And thats the end. We flew back to Auckland and we're now staying here for a week until we fly home. I will be home on the 22nd June to be exact. Hope you all enjoyed reading my blog and I hope it may have inspired some of you back home to come to NZ, it truly is the most amazing, beautiful country and I will be very sad to leave here. Tiago and I have had the best time travelling round here and we have literally hundreds of photos to prove it! I will be home for at least a month before starting my new adventure. As soon as I leave Scotland again I will update this blog. Bye for now xxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Posted by Trish on June 15, 2006 09:50 AM
Category: New Zealand

Hey trish, great to hear your coming home, there will be one hell of a piss up!! Colin and I are well up for the games they are on a sunday this year, I'll need to get the monday off work cause I have a feeling I may need it take care c u when you come home xxx kirsteen

Posted by: kirsteen on June 21, 2006 02:18 PM
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