Glaciers, lakes and extreme sports.............

Trip Start Aug 18, 2008
Trip End Aug 17, 2009

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Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Wednesday, April 1, 2009

After Kaikoura we headed to Nelson, the sunshine capital of the south island. We spent four nights there. Our hostel was nice and we were given free chocolate pudding and ice cream every evening. I didn't like the pudding but it was the first hostel that we have stayed in that you get something nice for free!

We went to Abel Tasman National Park which is a gorgeous place to spend a day. There are several hikes that you can do in Abel Tasman, we did the 12.4 kilometre hike, some of the hikes take five to seven days! To get to the national park we were brought by bus and then catamaran. It was a lovely sunny day with a nice blue sky. I didn't really know what to expect. We were told to bring our own food for lunch as there are no shops in the park.
We docked in Anchorage and spent a few minutes just admiring the view. Then the tough part, walking up the steep hill! Each step gave us a gorgeous view so I worked through the pain and panting! The views really were something else, looking down to lovely blue and green water with speed boats and sail boats just making their way across the water. We were walking through forested areas where it was nice and shaded from the sun and every so often we would get to a nice bay. Each bay was worth the sharp decline as they were usually lovely peaceful desserted areas. We stopped for our lunch at one. Although the sun was shining and it was warm enough to walk around in tracksuit bottoms and a t shirt the sea was very cold! An albatross bird decided to join us for lunch which was a rare experience for us.

When we were finished our walk we had a look at some wooden carvings. The person that did them made some of the musical instruments for the hobbits in The Lord of the Rings.

When we left Nelson we stopped off in Punakaiki to see the pancake rocks and blowholes. The tide was out so the blowholes weren't very exciting. The pancake rocks looked like a scaled down version of the twelve apostles in Australia.

After spending a few days in the sunshine it was bit of a shock to the system when we got to freezing Greymouth. It was a compulsory stop over and there's not a lot to do there. We stayed in a hostel called Noah's Ark, every room has a theme of a different animal. Ours was a cow and it was really well decorated with cow print curtains, blankets, a cow windchime, cow ornaments and even some cows painted on the walls.

We stayed in Franz Josef for one night. It was bit of an action packed day for us. We arrived in the afternoon and did a half day hike up the Franz Josef glacier which was a bit of hard work. It stared with being told that we had to wear socks that they provided! We were kitted out in socks, boots, jackets, waterproof trousers and campons (spikes that go over the boots for walking on ice) for our hike. We were also advised to dress warmly with three layers of tops under the jacket!

The Māori name for the glacier is Ka Roimata o Hinehukatere ('The tears of Hinehukatere'), arising from a local legend: Hinehukatere loved climbing in the mountains and persuaded her lover, Tawe, to climb with her. Tawe was a less experienced climber than Hinehukatere but loved to accompany her until an avalanche swept Tawe from the peaks to his death. Hinehukatere was broken hearted and her many, many tears flowed down the mountain and froze to form the glacier.

The glacier is bit of an optical illusion, when it is within your view it looks very close but in reality it was 2.8 kilometres away. As we are travelling on a tour bus we have got to meet a few nice people and we were all doing the same tour. We were divided into three groups and so Jenny was with us.

To get to the glacier we had to walk through a forested area which involved a bit of climbing and crossing streams which resulted in being roasting but knowing you shouldn't take any of the layers off because it would be cold on the glacier. There were also a few large waterfalls that were pretty cool.

Before we started walking on the glacier we had to stop to put campons over our boots to help us walk on the ice. This made me feel like I was carrying around weights on my feet and so climbing the steps was just that little bit more difficult! The guide that had went ahead of us had to cut out steps for us with an axe. He also secured ropes for us to hold onto beside some of the steps as it was pretty steep. Even though the group ahead of us were only ten minutes ahead of us our guide had to shovel ice off the steps.

Being on the glacier was incredible, it's not something I can do at home. Some of the ice had really bright blue pieces within it and others were grey. Our guide told us lots of information about the glacier, it moves at a rate of 70 cm a day. A church was built in 1931, with a panoramic altar window to take advantage of its location. By 1954, the glacier had disappeared from view from the church, but it reappeared in 1997! There are some streams within the glacier and lots of crevices. We had the opportunity to climb through an ice cave! It got very tight and claustrophobic so I didn't do it incase I freaked out. One of the lads from our bus that is really tall managed to get through it and ended up getting completely soaked at the bottom of it. We didn't get to climb all of the glacier but we did enough to make me feel pretty insignificant in the bigger scale of things.

The next day we stopped in Wanaka leaving everyone that we had met on the bus. We stayed for two nights. Our hostel overlooked the lake and mountains, a pretty amazing view. We did our sky dive there and it was just a totally amazing experience. Neither myself or John had done one before and thought our first jump mayaswell be fifteen thousand feet - the highest you can do in New Zealand. We held off doing one in Australia because the highest is only fourteen thousand feet. I had managed to get a horrible cold so I was warned if I couldn't clear my ears I could do permanent damage to them!

There were only three of us jumping when it was our turn so the three skydivers, three professional skydivers and camera people all got into a tiny little plane. I was really calm and collected while ascending in the plane. It took fifteen minutes to get to fifteen thousand feet. The door of the plane was clear so we could see everything as we waited. At one stage we were level with Mount Cook the highest peak in New Zealand, we were above the clouds and still going higher. We were shown in our preparation dvd how to exit the plane and I thought that would be the point that I would freak out. But as I sat in the doorway with the door open, my feet under the plane and my head back I felt nothing! No fear and no rush of adrenaline. And that was it I was freefalling! I dropped from fifteen thousand feet to three thousand feet in one minute! It was so surreal just falling, feeling the wind in my face. The sheer force of it I could barely move my arms. I was trying to smile for the camera but at the same time I was in total awe just taking in the beautiful scenery.

When we reached three thousand feet Eugene my skydiver pulled the parachute cord. When it was released we just sprung back up and Eugene was pointing out different mountains, lakes and a river to me. Then we were in the landing position and my feet touched the ground. Our landing was very smooth. It really was just a totally amazing surreal experience.

It was funny that we spent the morning freefalling in the sky and then we were back to reality making lunch and went to the local cinema in the evening. We met a few girls in our hostel in Wanaka; Ollie, Katy and Dominique.
Katy and Dominique had been on the same bus as us a few stops beforehand. The day we left for Queenstown the girls were also leaving. The sun was shining in Wanaka with some eager sun worshipers sitting outside the hostel with no tops on! It wasn't hot enough for that!

On our bus journey to Queenstown we passed some Lord of The Rings locations, the pond where Gallum ate the fish. Franz Josef glacier was also featured in it for a second.

When we got to Queenstown it was freezing! We had somehow manged to book ourselves into a hostel that was up a lovely steep hill! Queenstown is a real ski town with lots of hostels, motels and hotels. From the garden in our hostel we had a lovely view of the lake and mountains. New Zealand just seems to be full of mountains and lakes because I am typing this I am yet again beside a lake! There are also gondolas you that can take up one of the mountains that get a lot of use during the ski season. We met up with the four lads that we were travelling with from Nelson until Wanaka. John and three of the lads, Chris, Gorby and Hishem all did the AJ Hackett Nevis bungy together. It's one hundred and thirty four metres above the ground. I didn't want to watch them do it but if I did they charge $50 to watch! After they did their bungy we all went to Ferg Burger for food. Ferg Burger is famous for their massive burgers! The names of the burgers are very original with the veggie burger called Bun Laden and you can kinda guess what the Bambi burger is!

We all went out to Buffalo bar which is a great spot with an open fire, two for one drinks, good band and a great DJ. The World Bar serves cocktails in teapots and you have to drink them from shot glasses!

Still having a great time we are currently in Tekapo and I have just made a snowman!
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