A Travellerspoint blog

New Zealand: South Island

Kayaking, Tramping, Glacier walking, jetboating and sandflies!

all seasons in one day
View My Trip so far! on Sophfidoe's travel map.

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!

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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.

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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.

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Franz Josef Glacier

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Crampons

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!

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Constantly surrounded by Mountains

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Lake Wanaka

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Paragliders in Queenstown

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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.

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Waterfall at Milford

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Mitre Peak was a little cloudy in Milford Sound

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Rare Yellow-eyed penguins

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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.

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Crusaders warming up for the match

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Martine sporting the lovely hats we bought!

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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!

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Kaikoura peninsula

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.

Posted by Sophfidoe 19:28 Archived in New Zealand Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

New Zealand: The North Island

Tramping, caving, sandboarding and more tramping!

all seasons in one day
View My Trip so far! on Sophfidoe's travel map.

A rainy day whilst travelling spells a day of updating the blog! So here I am in the south island in a tiny town called Te Anau; gateway to the Milford Sound and other fabulous fiordland walks. However, as beautiful as the South island is, this entry is regarding my time spent in the North island.

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New Zealand - an Overview

I came to New Zealand with certain expectations and ideas as to what it would be like; was it like the UK 40 years ago, rolling hills filled with sheep, quaint little towns, friendly locals and numerous outdoor pursuit opportunities at your fingertips?

I'm finding NZ to be a country of 2 extremes: there is definitely a resemblance to home, but the countryside is more like Wales on a sunny day (well apart from at the moment!). The towns are large retirement villages and if you have a go-slow attitude then this is the place to be! That's until you reach the odd place which is full of adrenaline junkies dropping out of the sky, swinging by their ankles, crawling through caves or trying desperately not to fall out of their rafts.
Many say that the great attraction of NZ is having mountains, lakes, white sand and turquoise waters in such close proximity to each other and I'm definitely finding that, especially after coming from Oz!
NZ has so far lived up to my expectations of being activity central and having gorgeous scenery but I'm disappointed by the lack of sheep, where are they all?

The Kiwi's are as friendly and helpful as I expected them to be. Having come from Oz, where the aboriginals are viewed in a negative manner, it was refreshing to see the Maori population playing a large part in New Zealand society. The cross-cultural relationship may not be completely harmonious but it's a far cry from Oz.

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I have had a number of opportunities to learn about the Maori culture; in Waitangi, where the treaty was signed with the UK regarding land ownership etc, learning about their traditions and seeing the infamous Hakka war dance in Rotoroa before finally spending their national holiday (Waitangi day) in New Plymouth, where we were also joined by hundreds of retired couples with their hampers for the festival of lights (live concerts in the park for a few months of the year).

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Festival of lights

Three day roadtrip: Auckland to the Bay of Islands

Within one hour of being in the country, Martine (Dutch girl I met Wwoofing near Sydney) and I had already hired a cheap car and were off for three days to explore the Bay of Islands (right in the north of New Zealand, a few hours from Auckland). I was very privileged having the opportunity to teach Martine how to drive on the left hand side of the road, on the right hand side of the car and in an automatic (all of which were new experiences for her!). I have to say that at times I had a few butterflies but the I fact we had paid for full insurance gave me a little piece of mind!

Our first night in the country we stayed with a friends parents who fed us up with gorgeous home cooked food and gave us a lovely warm, comfy bed for the night (Many thanks Ron and Maggie). Well that was to be the last sign of decent food and accommodation for a while. We picked up their tent and spent the next few days surviving on a diet of coffee, salami sandwiches and bananas!

With 140 islands to explore surrounded by turqouise, calm waters we could see why the bay of islands was such a popular tourist destination.

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First day in NZ

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Bay of Islands

Even though we didn't do a boat trip around the islands, we got some stunning views from the numerous lookouts around the place and with perfect weather I felt like I had walked into the TV advert that constantly used to be played 'come to NZ!'. I love being surrounded by mountains and you find yourself constantly having beautiful ranges around you throughout the country; perfect for tramping!
The founding settlements of NZ are also located here, Russell and Waitangi, so it was a good introduction to the countries history.

Before we returned to Auckland, we treated ourselves to a sandboarding experience in Oponea, the west coast of the Northland. What I didn't realise is the amount of energy you need to run up the hill in the first place before you can even contemplate the slide down, remembering to use my feet as brakes to prevent a very wet landing into the water (we had to drive back to Auckland so didn't fancy getting drenched!).

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Fellow Sandboarders!

We returned the hire car with minutes to spare after wiping off the dust from a 30km off-roading trip that we took to try and save money, by not taking the ferry - good rally driving but as the one lady at the information centre pointed out, I don't think we were insured for that!

10 day Roadtrip: Auckland to Wellington

Martine and I moved up in the world as we joined Rob (from Newcastle) in his yellow van. We all three shared the mattress in the back and the evening menu had steak on it at one point! Where we chose to park in the evenings was just a matter of what we could find! It varied from the back of a pub (we had to quickly grab our washing from the fence in the morning as we realised it was the location for the School bus stop!), hot water springs in the middle of a field to the beach car park, which we realised at 3am was the sight for the locals to fight each other! It was occasionally difficult to find somewhere we could shower and from the look of the lady at the mineral baths, I don't think she had seen such dirty customers and was a little hesitant in giving us a robe!

Our 10 days together was filled with both adventure and amusement! We did the usual tourist route, stopping at the thermal parts of the north island, Rotorua being the main location with the Geysers and mudpools.

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Rotorua Geysers

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Taco (Dutch friend), Rob, Martine and I at Huka Falls in Taupo

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We'd only known Rob an hour when he had us booking a trip to spend 3 hours in caves, abseiling down waterfalls, rock climbing, crawling and swimming in the freezing water on the Haggas Honking Tour. The lady on the phone assured me that you didn't feel claustrophobic, but when Martine and I arrived at the caving company and saw the video we tried to think of a plausible excuse not to go, that didn't make us sound like typical girls!

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Waitomo Caves

I have to say that whilst walking through the NZ countryside in a field full of sheep muck with 6 others, wearing a wetsuit and bright white wellies, I was still wondering why we hadn't jumped ship earlier! To my surprise, I loved every minute of it, especially the rock climbing at the end - wouldn't advise to do this in wellies though!

Taupo, has the largest lake in NZ and as Martine and Rob found out, is the best location for Skydiving (I had already done this in Canada). We were in Taupo for other reasons though; It's called Tramping to the Kiwi's but what is known as hiking to us is what I was really excited about coming to NZ for.

Our 1st major hike, after a 3hr warm up a mountain the previous day in Taupo, was the famous 8hr 18.5km Tongariro crossing featured in Lord of the Rings movie. This walk was a huge wake up call for my body, just the decent at the end made muscles, that I'd forgot I had, ache - Gluteus Maximus I think!
You capture every landscape along the way, if you're not too nervous about where you're putting your feet and fixating on your boots! We crossed volcano craters, scaled steep ascents before taking in the views of the emerald lakes, with a bitter chill at 1900m, before returning past thermal pools and into rainforest.

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Tongariro Crossing

We had managed the crossing in 6 and a half hours (1hr stop along the way) and were keen for a well earned drink! With a huge number of vineyards in this country (Mainly known for good Sauvignon Blanc) the wine here is cheap by our standards (4 pounds for a good Pinot Noir) and good quality. We had found a very cheap supermarket to buy it until we got escorted out of the shop, by 4 members of staff, for trying to buy alcohol without our passports and driving licences weren't good enough as apparently you can get them at 17. The fact that you're date of birth is on there is obviously neither here nor there, so we left very embarrassed and trying hard not to give them a lecture on our way out!

Our trip with Rob can to an end slightly earlier than expected as the yellow van which had been so loyal to us decided to blow a tyre whilst on a very windy road with cars behind us (close to a garage though!). This happened to coincide with me pulling out the charging mobile phone, so Martine though that I'd blown up the car which fortunately wasn't the case. After two very lovely people had stopped and tried to help, but ended up pulling out 3 of the 6 bolts of the wheel (it was a clockwise thread!), the lovely man from the garage fixed the tyre on his national holiday but we left Rob in New Plymouth, with the retired population, as we got a bus to Wellington.

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Blow out

Posted by Sophfidoe 19:47 Archived in New Zealand Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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