Can we re-think that “back again” part?
Wow! Just wow.
That sums up my most recent adventure. On to the next one!
But on a serious note, WOW! Landscape after crisp, clear and stunning landscape, a two week trip to the south island of New Zealand was just what my spirits needed. I’ve got a ton of posts to follow so that I can curate the best photos and stories to share, but I wanted to check in and give a bit of an overview. Andrew and I were planning on going for two weeks, but last minute I got a job interview and so we had to cut our trip back to a week and a half. Halfway through our trip, my interview was postponed and so we backtracked a bit and thus you get our fun itinerary.
Yup, despite the odds, we “did it all”. I spent a lot of time brooding over travel books and conferring with Andrew and we had a “play it by ear, but if we can we’d like to do XXXX” attitude toward to our travels. We didn’t get to do any of the Great Walks, as they are all multi-day overnight hikes and we just don’t have the equipment for it, and our skills are a bit lacking for those trips without a guide. There are nine Great Walks in New Zealand, and the Tongariro Crossing in the North Island is still on my to do list. We didn’t do any extreme sports, mostly because we are “too old” for breaking our backs on bungy-jump or sky dive adventures and also because it’s pricey. For only $600 NZD you can get eaten by, I mean, swim with sharks, but alas, we decided against it. There are some activities we’d like to do in Queenstown, like Canyoning and Luge, but we’ll have to see if we can make it back there after our credit cards stop crying. Heli-sports were also out of the question, though there were times when our adventures were accompanied by a soundtrack of helicopter blades.
So that’s what we didn’t do, so what did we do? Hmmm. EVERYTHING else. We drove down to Wellington, the capitol of New Zealand and spent the first night camping. Early the next morning we hopped a ferry to Picton and drove to Nelson, a quirky town at the north of the south island known for it’s art. After a night in Nelson we hiked to the ‘Center of New Zealand’ in the morning then took off for Westport, a town on the western coast of New Zealand to check out some seals. After much success, we drove, and drove, and drove on down to the glaciers and passed some neat rocks along the way. We got to the glaciers after dark, but woke up to some stunning mountain views. We hiked to both Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers and got back in the car. Again, we drove, and drove to Te Anau. Getting in just after dark again, we had an early morning the following day, but a relaxing day. Wednesday, we took a cruise to and through Doubtful Sound, a long winded venture to get to, where we were treated to even more stunning views. An evening in Te Anau, the next day saw us to Invercargill via a scenic route. After catching up with Andrew’s family friend in Invercargill, we left again for Dunedin and the Otago Peninsula via the Catlins. Another gorgeous ride, we saw sea lions and dolphins. After much deliberation, at nearly the southern tip of the south island, Andrew and I changed into our swim things and dove into the frigid waters, much to the delight of some Hector Dolphins in the area. Yup, we swam with wild dolphins. After getting back into the car and putting the heat on high, we then took off for the Otago Peninsula with a short pit stop in Dunedin, a Scottish influenced town in the southeast. In the Otago Peninsula, Andrew and I tried to find a good spot to find penguins, and after a few disappointments, found a reclusive beach and stood like statues as a blue penguin and three yellow eyed penguins found homes for the evening. Still thinking we’d have to be home soon, we drove up to Lake Tekapo in the MacKenzie Basin. We took a scenic route (we always did) through the rock and pillar range and Central Otago and then saw what I am sure is the most stars anyone will ever see with their naked eyes at night. Our luck with weather was…. impeccable! And to top it off, it was a New Moon! About this time, I found out that my interview was postponed and we had a difficult decision to make. Andrew made it easy and we drove back south, through the fruit stands of Central Otago and found a ferry to Stewart Island. After a day and night hiking and looking for kiwi (no luck on the kiwi front, but we did see Kaka’s) we said so long to the gorgeous island and went back up past Dunedin, through the Catlins again, to Oamaru. One of my favorite towns, we stocked up on some fresh cheese and bread and went seeking a little known mountain called Sunday. For any readers more familiar with LotR, we adventured to Edoras! Afterwards we went back to the East Coast and spent an evening in Christchurch. We didn’t have much time to explore there if we were going to make it to and around the Kaikoura peninsula, but it was a phenomenal hike. If you’ve been keeping track, we spent the night in Kaikoura on our last Thursday night, so we had to wrap things up and quickly. We drove up to the Marlborough region, an area known for wines, and spent the most touristy day of them all, sipping on wines and relaxing before we hopped an evening ferry back up to Wellington. The next day, we did the long drive back home to Auckland. Got it? Easy, right?
It may seem rushed, but I’ll break it down for you in additional posts. The driving and landscapes were ever changing and while we didn’t spend a lot of time in any one location, we did what we wanted to do at each location and actually chose each site based on our time constraints. While a stopover in Abel Tasman National Park would have been nice, we knew we couldn’t give the area the time it deserved, so we instead hit up some shorter hikes in other national parks. Kaikoura was a last minute addition, and we skipped the Banks Peninsula based on the good things we’d heard about the Kaikoura area.
So, why should you keep checking in? I promise to try and limit the number of pictures I post to highlights (which still may be difficult), but I hope that I am able to share some of the exciting moments of our trip with you! I learned a lot about New Zealand and geography and history and I’ll try and keep the informative stuff light but intersting. If you are reading this blog before you come to New Zealand, I hope you gain some great insights. I love to travel and would be happy to work up an itinerary based on your interests and constraints or gut check one you’ve done yourself! And if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask! Andrew and I had a blast and I hope you enjoy reading about the beautiful country in which we’re so very lucky to be living.
Day 1: Drive to Wellington
Day 2: Ferry to Picton, drive to Nelson
Day 3: Drive to Westport, Glaciers
Day 4: Explore Glaciers, drive to Te Anau
Day 5: Cruise Doubtful Sounds
Day 6: Drive the Southern Scenic Route to Invercargill
Day 7: Drive through Catlins to Dunedin and Otago Peninsula
Day 8: Drive through Rock and Pillar Range to Lake Tekapo
Day 9: Turn around, go south back to Invercargill
Day 10: Ferry from Bluff to Oban in Stewart Island, search for kiwi’s
Day 11: Ferry back to the mainland and drive up to Oamaru
Day 12: Drive to Mount Sunday then Christchurch
Day 13: Drive up to Kaikoura and do peninsula walkway
Day 14: Drink wine in Marlbourough and take the ferry back to Wellington
Day 15: Drive back up to Auckland
Alright… here goes