The highs and lows of nature in New Zealand

Trip Start Nov 07, 2009
Trip End Jun 17, 2010

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Where I stayed
Jucy Crib

Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Thursday, April 22, 2010

After the heat in Australia, it was a bit of a shock to the system to arrive in New Zealand's autumn. We hadn't experienced much less than 30 degrees for a while and we're ashamed to say it but it felt rather cold! Embarrassingly our first night motel had a complementary stretch-limo-and-trailer pick-up service from the airport so we were not left too long in the cold. Matt felt like he was in the wrong movie and I felt that the bubbly and the pink interior were missing.
As we went to Christchurch downtown the following morning, we caught a first glimpse of the autumn at daytime. Having followed summer on our trip so far all of a sudden we realised that we missed having seasons. Seeing the trees changing colours, walking through the leaves on the floor in a sunny crisp morning just felt so good! We were planning to try out some hiking trails and therefore hit the outdoor shops for buying some rain jackets and hiking boots. Although New Zealand is small, we weren't prepared to bump into our friend and ex-RBS colleague Naomi. We knew she'd be in NZ at roughly the same time, but didn't expect to see her on our first day and the first shop we walked into! 
After our shopping spree we picked up our Jucy Crib (no, it's not a spelling mistake, it's called Jucy and not Juicy - that bet cost Matt 20), which was going to be our home for the following three weeks, and drove North to Blenheim, where we were staying with Huia and her lovely family. Huia and her mum were great hosts, Sander spoilt us with his cooking and Maui, their five month old son entertained us with his smiles and giggles - what a true sunshine! (Thanks so much guys, it was great seeing you all!) The view from the house was amazing! Soft rolling hills and the vinyards of Blenheim and on a clear day you can see the North island. As NZ is one of the new age wine countries, wine tasting is available all around Blenheim. Hmm... we had some truly good wine. We actually even found the cellar where the Sauvignon Blanc from our wedding day came from and we acquired four bottles for our Crib-trip.

From Blenheim we went further West on the North coast, past Nelson, to the Abel Tasman National Park, where we gave our new hiking boots a good one day test walk. As we were lacking some good exercise this hike turned into a real competition. We were told that the 22km walk takes six hours for fit people - pah! We did it in five! Carrying the back-pack turned into a "it's now my turn" fight and we lunched whilst we walked as we couldn't stand the fact, that people might overtake us. Crazy? Probably. Good work-out? Definitely! There was no need for the rain jackets as the sunshine again seemed to follow us. But in the evenings it did get chilly and in Takaka we found our first pub with an open fire and we nearly curled up in front of it. 

The next fire we found in Franz Josef, village to the glacier of the same name. As it was much colder we felt justified to sit in front of a fire with a nice glass of wine. The morning after we went for a walk to the face of the glacier. Unfortunately the weather closed in so we didn't stay too long and gave Fox glacier a miss, heading straight to Queenstown. 
Queenstown is probably the home of adrenaline sports. In fact, I believe they invented adrenaline. Next to bungee and swing jumps, you can go skydiving, paragliding, sit in an aerobatic stunt plane, hang-gliding, heli skiing, quad biking, rock climbing, abseiling, take a jet boat, rafting and canyoning. This makes kayaking, skiing, horse riding and mountain biking look like a walk in the park. As we drove past a historic bridge where you can bungee jump, we went to have a look and tried to build up courage to jump ourselves, but left with the tail between our legs, reassuring each other that it's not that bad and that we'll do it the next day. Luckily we were excused the following day as we had to stock-up on food and on emergency blankets for the four day Milford Track and soon we were driving to Te Anau, the starting point of the track.
Rain greeted us in Te Anau and but we were reassured by the receptionist on the campsite that you can see some marvellous waterfalls on the Milford Track when it rains. A rather optimistic way of looking at things at least! Meeting up with Naomi again (this time organised) and her boyfriend Wally for drinks that night, we sat over some beers and were discussing each others plan of action as by coincidence they booked the track too, only a day ahead of us. 
Whilst they took off on the track, we still had a day to give our boots a final layer of waterproofing (we emptied a whole can in preparation for this trip) and rented some gaiters and over-trousers. Hiding from the rain in a cafe over some coffee and hot chocolate we kept on wondering into what mess we brought ourselves. Next morning came and we packed our back-packs, all in double and triple bin liners just to make sure that the clothes, sleeping bags and food stay dry. But the gods were with us and the rain stopped. So we set off, albeit with the warning of possible heavy rains from the Department of Conservation. 
The first part of the track is only five km along the river and we admired the beauty and diversity of the moss in the rainforest. When we arrived at the hut it started raining again. Only this time, there was no end to it. In the morning we were informed by the hut ranger that we'll have to stay put due to "possible flooding". Shortly after we received an update that we had to stay in the hut for an extra night, as the floods had been confirmed. The day passed very slowly as there was very little to do. We shared a book between us, stared at each other, and tried not to eat all the food in one day. We went for an 'excursion' to check-out the flooding, but two minutes away from the hut the river broke the bank and covered the track. So sitting around was all we could do. And listening to the rain; mainly violent downpours. The hut ranger gave us an update that the track has been badly damaged and on one place a bridge was washed away and therefore hut two and three up the track would be evacuated by helicopter and that we'll possibly also get evacuated by a chopper if the rain doesn't ease off. So, the next morning came and along with it the message that the water level already dropped by one metre. We had to wait for it to drop another metre and soon we found ourselves wading through hip-deep icy water, back to the jetty, where we came from. Forget gaiters, over-trousers and waterproof boots - there was no way of staying dry. Once you're wet you can't get any wetter; apart from Matt who found a hole in the path, stumbled and fell over! 
Back in Te Anau we heard that the town was completely cut off from the rest of the world due to flooding. They never experienced that much rain in such a short time - bridges and even the phone/internet cable had been washed away. We had the best hot shower ever that night and the next day the sun came out and we were able to leave. But we will come back, we've only seen the first five km of one of the worlds best tracks and it made us hungry for more!
On our way back to Christchurch we stopped for two nights in Arrowtown, a beautiful former gold rush town which has almost perfectly retained its original late 1800's architecture and we felt like walking through a toy town. Again we found a pub with a massive open fire and a comfy sofa! Arrowtown is only 20km from Queenstown so the next day we went for a three hours horse ride and on the way back to Arrowtown my shoulder devil took over and made me bungee jump off the bridge. A little bit shaken by my own courage we returned to Christchurch as we reached the end of our three weeks stay here.
We thoroughly enjoyed the wild beauty of New Zealand. From soft and gentle rolling hills to snow covered rocky mountains, from white sandy beaches to rough cliffs, from river to glaciers, from bushland to rainforest - you get it all.
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Traute Cordes on

Hallo Gaby und Matt,

Es ist immer so spannend, wieder von Euren Abenteuern zu lesen. Was kommt
jetzt ? Wieder der Sommer ? Hier auf alle Fälle ist auch noch kein Sommer -
12 o C. Weiterhin alles Gute und viel Spass -herzlichst Traute

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