Everybody raves about the south island of NZ…and now I know why!
My last few days in Australia were spent where it had all started five months ago – Sydney. My third time there and I still love the place. After catching up and saying farewells to good friends (oh and having the first bath I’ve had in months while staying at the lovely Vic and Rick’s new abode), I leave on a jet plane to NZ’s capital city – Wellington. It is known as the windy city, however, nothing quite prepared me for the icy cold gale force winds that very nearly sent me flying on exiting the airport. I was informed that a southerly had blown in, a southerly being a wind direct from the Antarctic. I didn’t really care where it was coming from, my first instinct was to jump on the first plane outta there. I must admit after ten months in hot climes, I have turned into a bit of a wimp! But no, I persevered and glad I did.
Wellington turned out to be a nice city and made even more welcoming thanks to Dawn & Craig’s hospitality. After another shopping spree to buy yet more fleeces, I board a catamaran to cross over the Cook Strait through the majestic Marlborough Sounds to the south island.
Crossing the Cook Straight
My first stop here is Nelson, the platform for the beautiful Abel Tasman National Park that hugs the north west coast. Apparently, Nelson also records the highest sunshine hours in NZ. If this is true then I’m in trouble ‘cos all it did when I was there was piss down with rain (excuse my French). With the sea kayaking trip cancelled due to rain. I brave the elements and go off tramping for the day. Great stuff!
From there I travel down the wild west coast stopping along the way at an abundance of scenic spots. Also paying a visit to the Cape Foulwind (yes it really is called that and those who have been there will know why!) where a seal colony can be found.
While here I tried out a new activity. Not a clue what it is called but involves a wind sail attached to a go-cart on the beach and is a lot of fun. The wind allows you to get quite a speed up, oh and did I mention there were no brakes!!!
Also stopped briefly at Punakaiki’s famous pancake rocks.
A night spent in Greymouth and the next day passing through Hokitika (known for it’s jade) and stopping briefly at the historic gold mining town of Ross to try one’s hand at gold panning, leaving there non the richer I head to Franz Josef. Absolutely freezing and guess what? Yep, raining again, meaning heli-hike’s cancelled. But I arrive just in time for half a day hiking on the infamous glacier. Such an incredible experience walking up sheer faces of ice, through ice crevices and caves, obviously with the help of ice talons on my boots. Superb and I’d definitely recommend it.
Franz Joseph glacier ice cave
From here the scenery just gets better and better – if that is at all possible. Lots of fantastic lakes and from now on down snow capped mountains as a backdrop, the snow has been advancing daily down the mountains getting ready for the ski-season – Bring it on! Crowded House’s song “Four seasons in one day” comes to mind when attempting to describe the weather here. Literally one minute blue skies and sun, next hailing and snowing, then gale force winds then nice again! Set on the beautiful shores of Lake Wakatipu, I arrive in the adventure capital of the world – Queenstown. Any adrenalin junkies dream destination. Every extreme activity you can think of can be done here and many more that I had never heard of. Unfortunately, my finances are not the healthiest so I had to be selective in what I did. I opt for a package consisting of a jet boat ride on the Shotover River through a canyon complete with 360-degree turns – Exhilarating and definitely a must!
From here I get picked up by helicopter that is just the best ever form of transportation ever invented. Fantastic. A scenic flight over Queenstown before landing down on top of a mountain. It is here I experience ludging (sort of like a go-cart) down a steep track – Very good!
After playing around in the snow for a bit I took the gondola back down to Queenstown to sample the local beers and check out the local lively nightlife. Today I’m having a day off in Queenstown and guess what? Yep, it’s raining! But that’s OK as it is nice and dry in the bars!