Cliffs, Sounds & Glaciers

Trip Start Nov 01, 2010
Trip End Nov 01, 2011

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Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Monday, September 12, 2011

Te Anau 8.9.11
After the mayhem of Queenstown, it was time for a chilled out few days further south in Te Anau. It was a 2.5 hour journey, passing the Remarkables mountain range, the giant lake, crazy mental roads with scary cliff drops, whilst a tornado was basically throwing us all over the road. The views continued to amaze us but I was relieved when we arrived at our next TOP10 campsite in the tiny village of Te Anau, in the new province of Southland, the gateway to the Fiorland National Park. We ended up booking 2 nights here, as we'd be returning late’ish from Milford the following day.

On arrival we dandered along the lake/fiord and then dodged into the local cinema to watch a short movie on Milford Sound, our intended destination the following day, a boat trip we had booked as part of our package. The short movie contained no dialogue (great 1st impression, I was looking for the exit), and was taken from the point of view of a helicopter pilot and his documentary team. In fairness, it was very impressive. We got chatting to locals in the cinema bar afterwards (which had just opened after refurbishment, and as it turned out we were the 1st customers), and they were giving us great travel tips, especially Buzz Lightyear the bar-man. We woke early the next morning to find it absolutely bucketing down, Great! The drive was truly mental. The roads were nuts and at 1 point we were climbing that high up a mountain, that everything around us turned white. The place was covered in snow, and it was looking like Armageddon FFS. We were fast approaching what looked to be a tunnel, which was drilled right through a mountain and we decided to pull over. When we got out of the camper-van we were greeted by a giant brown Alpine Parrot. – Yip, it was then that it all sank in, we were in Narnia!

Milford Sound
Once we got through the mountain tunnel, exiting the other side, sleet and rain continued to fall heavily and wondered how enjoyable this boat trip would be out on Milford Sound. On arrival, snow had disappeared with our decent, but still lashed it down and it was FREEZING. The Mitre Peak desk informed us that our boat wasn’t going out due to poor numbers (shocking weather) but she would transfer us to the Southern Adventures boat. We thought about it, A LOT lol, considering should we make a run for it, but decided to make most of our tricky drive and go for it. We didn’t regret it, it was amazing out there, even in the cold and rain, sure there was refillable tea to keep us warm, freebies, we will make most of that haha. The waterfalls were cranking, penguins were spotted, as were the seals and the dolphins were in there somewhere. The sound/fiord was huge, and the result of giant glaciers melting. The water started to get rough when it opened up into the Tasman Sea which separates NZ from OZ. After a couple hours on board the well commentated cruise, we were ready for the crazy journey back, were Caoimhe as co-pilot would look out over the cliff drops, freak out, which spread to me even further freaking out, there were a few scary moments, but at 25km an hour what damage could we do really lol.

Back At Te Anau – First day of the Rugby World Cup 9.9.11
We landed back to Te Anau about 730pm pretty busted from the trip, opted for fish n’ chips from a lake side van, then got changed to head out for a few drinks to watch the opening to the Rugby World Cup game, NZ v Tonga. (We sprinted about 1 mile in order to make it in for Caoimhe’s favourite part, The Haka).We started of in The Moose bar (still breathing heavily), then moved onwards to the new cinema bar, which was having it’s official opening night, and our mate Buzz had invited us along. Drank a few Monetigh’s Originals, great local beer, whilst Caoimhe enjoyed the pear cider. We enjoyed the heavily 1 sided game as expected, with the Kiwi locals who were impressed with my All Blacks jersey lol (Hey, anything for free drink!?) We got talking to the owners brother, who also was a helicopter pilot, who was a tad steaming, and exclaimed that everyone round here had a helicopter lol. As you do. The place was infested with helicopter companies for tourists looking trips around Milford and Mount Cook, we were happy with Wally the Wanderer for now. Buzz said a quick hello too and gave us advice on our next big trip, Franz Josef Glacier!

National Lampoons Drive to Franz Josef Glacier 10.9.11
We ducked out of Te Anau at about 10am on our 'Google mapped 6 hour drive’ for the day, re-fuelled after seeing a sign, ‘next shop 120kms’ WTF lol and headed North for Franz Josef Glacier which appeared to be on the west coast and a tricky little spot amongst the mental "Sothern Alps" mountain range we flew in over. We stopped a couple of times to stretch the legs out and some fresh air, but only brief enough stops. We knew we wanted to get there at a decent time, in the light preferably, so we could get a good sleep ahead of our full day track up the glacier planned which involved our alarm clock going of at 630am. The drive at the start was fantastic, even with the lashing rain , but as it wore on, it was starting to do my nut in. The roads were CRAZY, basically swerving around mountain bends in ice, rain & heavy fog, peering over 100m drops, climbing in 2nd gear then taking off down drops. It was constant and we were now 9 hours in to our 6 hour Google mapped drive. Unfortunately Google didn’t account for us novice camper-vanners driving in crazy conditions on Planet Neptune.

Oh and the single lane amateur bridges, we crossed at least 40 of them, where nobody seemed to understand the right away signs. Other signs we spotted were AVALANCHE warnings, debris which might blow in from SEA – seriously WTF is this about. We couldn’t wait to say goodbye to the Heart Failure Mountain Range! We even noticed a road named Perseverance Road, that says it all really. Eventually a very tired Brian and Caoimhe, who shared the drive, arrived at Franz Josef Top10 campsite at 10pm, 12 hours LONG, Lord give me strength. We needed a hug. We needed to talk to Frank actually. Caoimhe began to prepare dinner, 1 of her amazing dishes, Risotto to find we had lost the box of matches we needed to light the gas cooker. At that point I seen tears in Caoimhe’s eyes. We hugged it out, made a ham sandwich and hit the cot, promising to put the lonegst day ever behind us. This dam Glacier walk better be worth it.

Franz Frickin Josef

630…beep beep beep. I wanted to throw my phone out the van window. We looked out, lashing down it was, if I seen rain like that whilst at Uni, I’d simply close the curtains and turnover in my bed and set my alarm for Neighbours. We actually said to each other, I doubt this trip will go on with that rain, lets go back to sleep. No, lets not have driven into outer space for nothing. Headed for the Glacier guides office in town. I was first person there, girl looked at our voucher and announced (whilst pointing at a picture of what looked like Sylvester Stallone holding a pick axe climbing a 180 degree vertical wall with ropes) ‘the ice climbing trip will not be on due to the heavy rainfall’ – Ice Climbing WAA? Were we signed up to climb up ice walls ? Jesus fckin Christ, god must have been looked down on us when he sent that rain!! Haha. Instead of the Olympic ice climbing trip, she kindly placed us on the half glacier walk, that’l do pig, that’l do.

The glacier was only 1 of 3 in the world that met the rainforest. 1 of which in Argentina, the other was down the road from us, fox glacier – another place we passed through in the darkness the night before. 

We suited up in the guides office, fit for the Antarctic, which really isn’t that far away. Waterproofs, caveman socks and boots, and a yank bum bag for our spikes. Bussed it up to the Glacier and commenced the hike after being split into 2 groups. The rain continued to pour, but didn’t take away anything from the hike, we were indeed Superdry. The guide, a kiwi, led us all up the glacier, with his pick axe, clearing new pathways and ice stairs. Then all of a sudden out of nowhere, whilst we were having a break, this maniac comes slipping and sliding over the brow of an ice hill of a the glacier in what only could be described as tennis shoes, wearing no socks haha and he was smiling like a Cheshire cat. What a legend, simply ignoring the danger signs and fair chance of frostbite and skull fractures haha – our guide chased him off, felt sorry for him, some balls to make it this far. We needed a rope and spikes.

The walk was fairly intense but well worth it, some great caves, slopes and crevasses. I will never say these words again in the same sentence.

Arrived back, exhausted but ready for the heated outdoor pools down the road in the village. A great way to relax afterwards, where we met most of our fellow ice companions, most of which were snap happy Asians walking around in their Y-fronts as if to say, how cool do I look? The hot pool vouchers were given to us courtesy of the half day walk, and then also refunded the difference of our full day top priced $300 ice climb, not wise. After dipping into the 36, 38 and 40 degree pools, we were toasting and cooled off in the showers, and said cherio to the fcked up Maori Drag queen manageress/manager.

Back to the campervan, (gypsy talk) and changed into new threads for the Rugby game in the pub, Ireland v USA, not a great spectacle, but a win for the green nonetheless. A few beers, and then it was good night Irene.

Driving North

The next day was a non stop drive in the direction of Picton (Google map 6 hours – pay no attention to this) where we plan to get the ferry to the North Island saying goodbye to the South. In fairness the drive was fairly straight forward and we stopped in Nelson, TOP10 holiday park, only an hour drive to Picton the next day on the ferry with wally.
Opted to go out for dinner for the 1st time, served basically a pile of muck and felt ill after, cooking from now on I’d say.

Onwards to the 4 hour ferry to the North Island, for the Sky Dive, Maori Village experience and Waitamo Glow-worm caves, and Auckland for Ireland V Australia game. NZ flying in and action packed, 2 weeks lying out on Fijian beaches will be welcomed after this blast of NZ.

Update on Wally – he has had his 2nd visit to the mechanics now, constipated/pipes blocked on 1st visit – Now he has had a new battery, battery charger and fuse replaced, as we have now driven over 2,500kms on top of the 280,000kms already on the clock. He is flying now!
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Laura on

hey guys!!! loveee reading ur blogs!! u's are having some adventure!! hope the rest of NZ goes well!! keep blogging!! miss yas!!

orla on

nz sounds unreal!!!

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