Kayaking, Tramping, Glacier walking, jetboating and sandflies!
10.02.2009 - 04.03.2009
I have found the sheep! They are dotted around the south island and the more south you get, the more there are! New Zealand's south island really does have more to offer than sheep and many travellers favour this half of the country. Maybe as it is host to some of the classic landmarks such as Milford Sound (should actually be a fjord as it was cut out by a Glacier), Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers and the Abel Tasman National park. I personally don't have a favourite island, I felt that they both offered enough to keep me entertained and mesmerised on a daily basis!
As much as I love New Zealand, every country has it's faults and I can now reveal that this country follows suit. They may not mention them in the brochure but the main annoyance is those darn sandflies!! No-one ever mentioned them before I arrived but be warned they bite and the bites itch like mad! They are possibly worse than mozzies as you can't hear them coming and they are around both day and night!! Before we returned the car we had to clean out all the ones that I'd swatted on the car ceiling! So advice for future travellers - cover yourself from head to toe and tuck your trousers into your walking boots, like my dad does when riding a bike, it may be "uncool" but it works to save your sanity!
Other than the sandflies, it was only a bit of rain (well a lot in our last week actually) and the odd camping incident that prevented our trip from going without a hitch. Us three girls were aiming to camp throughout the south island after hiring a cheap old mans car (appropriately named Fred), for three weeks and now have a whole array of memorable camping moments that weren't always funny at the time but we can look back and cry with laughter now!
The main causes of the incidents were the fact we were sleeping in unsuitable/illegal places, but we always played the innocent card!
To reduce costs two of us were sleeping in the tent and one in the car at rest areas. The only problem being that in NZ it's quite different from Oz and tents aren't really allowed to be pitched in rest areas.
On our first night we got moved out of a beach car park by security and then the tent began to leak. So after purchasing a new tent we pitched up on what we thought was a great location at the base of Fox Glacier. Over a camp stove you couldn't have asked for a better view, even in a field full of cow muck it was an amazing sunset glow on the glacier. I first awoke in the middle of the night when Martine came to grab a pair of socks from her bag as she said she was feeling the cold. I too was pretty chilly and my woolly hat and fleece weren't really making a huge difference. An hour later I opened my eyes to Martine struggling to get the whole contents of her rucksack of the car, she was a blue colour by now from the chill of the glacier, something none of us had really given much thought to. So at 6am we were up and about and off to thaw out!
Camping at the base of Fox Glacier
It was that next evening that we pitched up next to a lake which already had campervans there. We decided to have a bit of a lye-in in the morning due to the lack of sleep the night before but that was very optimistic thinking! At 9am Michelle and I (in the tent) were woken by a banging sound on the car door. We remained completely still as we heard a ranger talking to Martine, who was in her sleeping bag in the car, "I'm about to ruin your day" he muttered, "you are camped here illegally as you don't have a toilet facility, I have taken a photo of your car and if you are found here again I will report you to the police!". It was a good job that it wasn't me in the car as I think I'd have given him an earful as there weren't any signs saying not to camp, but I'd thought I'd let him have his power trip as he can't get much job satisfaction! As soon as he had gone we made a made dash for the road!
Picton to Christchurch. 3 Week Roadtrip!
As with the north island, the south was action packed. We saw some amazing scenery and met some lovely people along the way. The first few days of our trip were spent in the Abel Tasman National park. The weather wasn't great but the 7hr (21km) walk in the rain could have been worse, I could have been wearing flip-flops like a guy we passed (must have been from Oz!).
We kayaked for a half day but unfortunately only a few minutes into the journey Michelle (who I was in a kayak with) became very sea-sick, turning a lovely shade of green, so we made a quick dash for the beach before heading back.
Abel Tasman National Park
We met up with Chloe (friend from home) and her family in Franz Josef and did a half day trip up the glacier. As soon as we got up there I just wanted to carry on! Initially you don't think the crampons they give you are strong enough but it's amazing how much grip you get with them. It's a temperate glacier which means that it can exist whilst being surrounded by trees and shrubs and also in a warmer temperature than other glaciers. A really great experience.
Franz Josef Glacier
The drive from there to Queenstown is one of the best road trips I did in New Zealand. Numerous mountains and lakes surround you, with Lake Wanaka being a particular favourite of mine. Queenstown to me was my favourite city in New Zealand and the girls had trouble prizing me away from it, I think it was the friendly, bustling atmosphere of the adrenaline junkies returning from their paragliding or maybe the shotover jet experience that I had. This 1/4million dollar boat drives at high speed through narrow gorges whilst doing 360degree spins along the way - it really is hair-raising!
Constantly surrounded by Mountains
Paragliders in Queenstown
Queenstown from the Gondola following a 45min trek up to it.
I think it was in Queenstown that we left the sunny weather. From then on, in our last week as we headed south it rained more than it does back in the UK. We still went on the trip to Milford sound and were disappointed as Mitre Peak was covered with cloud. The wildlife in the South of NZ made up for the weather though, numerous sealions, dolphins and the rare yellow-eyed penguins which Martine was fascinated with.
Waterfall at Milford
Mitre Peak was a little cloudy in Milford Sound
Rare Yellow-eyed penguins
Seals and sealions on mass!
Arriving in Christchurch meant the end of our trip as the three girls who tried to camp and ended up in numerous hostels and living rooms of random pubs, as they got too cold in the car and tent!
We said chao to Michelle but our last evening was spent in style as we supported the Crusaders in a Super14 match with the Hurricanes! The atmosphere was electric and the beer was flowing! Unfortunately, despite us nearly losing our voices we lost the game.
Crusaders warming up for the match
Martine sporting the lovely hats we bought!
The end of our 3 week roadtrip!
Martine and I carried on our journey for a few days before returning the car. After stopping off at some beautiful hot springs we headed to Kaikoura, a few hours north of Christchurch and wildlife central!
I've got very fond memories of my trip around New Zealand and had a great group of friends that made it all that more special. I've never laughed so much and I have to say that it was the camping that I can attribute that to or maybe the cheap wine! I'd definitely recommend NZ but don't rush around it, everything happens at a slow pace there and travellers should travel with the same attitude.