After 3 days in Christchurch, it was time for Hung and Markus to head back to their countries and the real world. Dropping them at the airport I was definitely sad to see them go, but at the same time it’s good to be back to the slower pace of travel that I’ve become accustomed to. The 2 weeks of travel was downright exhausting to me, yet it was something that just 6 months ago I did without issue. I’ve grown soft in my relaxed ways of travel! We covered over 2500km in the 14 days on the south island – I’d done roughly 9000km on my own over 175 days prior to that. 🙂
Here’s the map of where we went:
The highlights for me were the Ben Lomond hike, Milford Sound and Te Anau in general. I’m looking forward to being back to each of those spots with later travelers, and I’ll also be in Milford and Te Anau on my own at other times. For now though, I was finished with Christchurch. It was time to head north to the cozy beach-side town of Kaikoura.
Continuing North after the successful visit with the penguins of Oamaru and Dunedin, Hung, Markus and I reached our final destination on their tour of New Zealand – Christchurch. The drive from Te Anau to Dunedin, then northward through Oamaru to Christchurch was the most dreadfully boring stretch of driving I’ve done in all of New Zealand. Much of it is done across plains, not coast line, and not mountains. BORING. Based on that drive alone, I actually altered my plans for once Hung and Markus left – I wasn’t about to willingly drive that stretch again if I could avoid it. There just wasn’t much of interest beyond the penguins and boulders, and this was over hundreds of kilometers of driving. The exception was Dunedin. The city looked wonderful and I liked that area. I’ll be returning there at some point, hopefully.
Anyways, we had made it to Christchurch. Time for more babbling on my part! This probably takes the cake as ‘worst NZ city to drive in’. Numerous one-way roads are part of the problem, but the largest was the NAMING of the roads – they would change the name of the bloody road you were driving on every 4-5 blocks it seemed. This made finding streets, destinations, etc. a downright nightmare. And all of this isn’t even considering the roads closures due to earthquake damage.
There were two major earthquakes in Christchurch – the first, in September of 2010, caused damage but amazingly didn’t result in any fatalities. The second, in February of 2011, the city wasn’t so lucky. Claiming 181 lives, it was a disaster on the scale New Zealand had never seen before. And after seeing the city, is still very much coping with.
After leaving Te Anau, the next destination with Hung and Markus was the East Coast of the South Island. There was one very specific reason for this part of the trip – Penguins. Near Dunedin, we found a refuge that works to help preserve the rarest of all penguins (about the same rarity as the Galapagos Penguin), the Yellow Eyed Penguin.
To get to see the penguins, they reserve has designed trenches to take you close to the penguins. The penguins are wild, the reserve just provides a safe environment for them to come home to and breed, if the penguins so choose. The reserve has been successful and has quite a few families now. Well, quite a few for Yellow-eyed. Unlike other penguins, the yellow-eyed is decidedly an anti-social penguin, and dislikes living in large groups. They pair up and that’s it, no big groups of them here. Into the tunnels we went.
When people talk of Milford Sound, they often describe the rain, the waterfalls, and the utterly spectacular scenery. When Hung, Markus and I visited the area, we didn’t have the rain, nor many of the waterfalls. Instead we had stunningly clear and sunny weather (a rarity for a place that receives over 7 meters of rain /year) and such amazingly scenic, glorious views of the peaks and surroundings that it really is hard to convey with simple pictures. This is a place that, even though pictures look fantastic, being there is the only way to actually experience the simple majesty of the area. That being said, I’ll do my best with what I took, which was far too many pictures. 🙂
Getting into Milford Sound is part of the fun. To get there you follow a winding 120km road that cuts through the grand mountain passes. After the first 40km of driving, you start getting the sense you are heading somewhere special.
With the daunting number of photos taken while travelling with Hung and Markus, it’s taken me some time to get around to going through them all. I’m finally finished with the photos, which means updates will resume shortly at their regular pace. Once I get the posts typed up that is. But that takes far less time than the photo portion of things. 🙂
The majority of time was spent on the batch of photos in the next post anyways. Something about Milford Sound being kind of scenic?
Some people collect stamps. Others collect comics, take up photography or astronomy. Markus’ (Hung’s Boyfriend) hobby is to chase steam trains.
New Zealand isn’t known as a big place for steam train enthusiasts (as far as I’m aware), but there are a few notable pockets where you can still see a steam train in action. After leaving Queenstown, I found myself in the back seat of my own car as Markus chased the Kingston Flyer.
Towering over Queenstown are numerous mountains, one of which rises up directly behind the town. That mountain is Ben Lomond. At 1750m, it is a 1400m ascent to the peak from Queenstown – easily done in a day, but still a tiring climb. And the reward of the fantastic views…well worth the effort. Not much to talk about beyond that (and I’m still far behind on getting these days of travel up), I’ll let the pictures do the talking.
Here is a pretty quick recapping of my first few days of 2012 on the South Island.
After an early morning wakeup, Hung, Markus and I were on the ferry leaving Wellington, heading to the South Island.