After staying in Christchurch, we hit up Kaikoura next, with some success. The first day was fantastic – the other 3 got out onto a Whale Watching tour, saw 3 whales, some albatrosses and several dolphins. Marc and Alexandra then went skydiving, something that was high on their list of things to do in New Zealand, but hadn’t had the weather for so far. And we had a very tasty dinner. All in all, a very good day!
The next day the weather wasn’t cooperating, so the three unfortunately had their dolphin swim cancelled (one of my favourite memories here in New Zealand). That was very disappointing, but we still enjoyed the Kaikoura Peninsula walk before heading through the scenic Lindis Pass over to Greymouth, to spend the night there.
The next morning we drove up to Pancake Rocks, took in the sights, and then headed to a very soggy walk of Franz Josef glacier. The forecast for the next day was finally calling for some decent weather though…just in time.
We were headed to Fox Glacier to do some ice climbing! (note: A few pictures are courtesy of Alexandra and Sabrina)
One of the activities here in New Zealand that Sabrina was really keen on was wine tasting. New Zealand loves their wines, and they can grow a pretty decent variety. There are a few major wine growing regions, including Hawkes Bay, Wairarapa (near Wellington), Nelson/Marlborough, Central Otago (near Queenstown), and the Waipara, near Christchurch.
I’d never been wine tasting before, so I was curious to see how this day would play out. My extent of wine knowledge is being able to identify whether it is a white or red wine…and no further. Yes, I’m slovenly and uncouth.
After the fun on Tasman Lake at Mt. Cook, we didn’t have much time to spare – we still had a full day of travel ahead of us, going from Mt. Cook to Christchurch. Not to mention, we were taking a detour along the way. But first was a quick stop at lovely Tekapo.
From there, we drove for several hours until arriving out our detour destination. Mt. Sunday, or Edoras from the Lord of the Rings films. Alex and Marc were keen to see the area.
After the Routeburn and Milford Sound, the trio and I stayed in Te Anau for the night. After that the other 3 went on a glow worm tour before we returned to Queenstown for another stop, once again midst pouring rain. We left Queenstown the next morning, still under the cover of rain and headed to Twizel, where Marc and Lexie enjoyed a Lord of the Rings Tour, while Sabrina and I wandered through the Clay Cliffs I had explored a while back (detailed here). Then, it was time to head to Mount Cook.
While Twizel had pretty good weather, Mt. Cook saw us return to rain and cold. Which was unfortunate, since the next morning we were going kayaking. And not just kayaking on any lake, but Tasman Lake, a lake that has the Tasman Glacier face at the far end of it – and numerous ice bergs floating in the lake. Kayaking amongst dozens of huge pieces of glacial ice? Sounds pretty cool.
While the posts will continue over the next few days (yay for post-scheduling abilities!), I’m actually going to be hiking on the world-renowned Milford Track, starting….well now. It’s a 4 day, 3 night, 54km trek that starts at one end of Lake Te Anau, and ends up dropping you into the Milford Sound. I made my booking over 4 months ago, and so I’m very excited to get out there. The track has a lot to live up to – a hike doesn’t get labelled ‘The Finest Walk in the World’ for no reason. Do I think it can actually live up to it’s storied reputation? No (I have my doubts that it will surpass the Tongariro in my books). But I would love to be wrong.
The first time I was in Milford Sound, it was a stunningly clear, sunny and warm day.
With Marc, Alex and Sabrina, the return trip was remarkably different.
Once I knew about Sabrina, Marc and Alexandra’s plans to travel to New Zealand, it wasn’t a matter of if we’d do a Great Walk together, it was a matter of choosing which one. The Milford Track is the obvious choice – world famous, challenging but not too difficult, excellent huts and stunning scenery. Three flaws though – it has to be booked months in advance, it often gets rained on, heavily, and the clincher – it takes 4 days and 3 nights to complete it. Which, when you only have 17 days in New Zealand, is a good amount of time. So I considered other options. The Routeburn was the next, and fit perfectly.
While the Milford Track gets the most international attention, the Routeburn is often considered to be superior (I’ll find out before this month is out). It’s a considerably shorter trek, only taking 3 days and 2 nights, and also receives less rain and heavy cloud than the Milford. Bookings don’t need to be quite so far in advance either. And what worked out perfectly was how you can hike it. You start on the Queenstown side of mountains and hike into the Milford Sound side.
With Alexandra, Marc and Sabrina here for 17 days, this was the trip we put together. Covering a large amount of the South Island, we’d start with the Routeburn Track, hit places like Mt. Cook and Fox Glacier, and see lots in between. It wasn’t always successful – the weather had other ideas quite often, but we got to do the majority of the activities that we wanted. And while quite a few things were repeat for me, I still got to do new activities quite often at those spots…if the weather permitted at least.