Trip Start Sep 04, 2012
Trip End Aug 02, 2013

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Flag of New Zealand  , Southland,
Wednesday, March 6, 2013

What is it with the beds in New Zealand!!? Christchurch's beds were the exact same as the PRISON beds in Cambodia and the Mount Cook hostel doesn't even provide BED LINEN!! What is that!!!? I was freezin...with my smelly towel over my shoulders!!!! Right, from now on in New Zealand it was time to get the 'Merrells' well and truly dusted off from our Borneo trek and get out and see a bit!!! (They call it 'tramping' over here). First, Mount Cook National Park. The drive from Christchurch takes you first to Lake Tekapo - very scenic and lots of sheep, then onto Lake Pukaki, where we got our first view of Mount Cook over the lake. (Luckily so, apparently, as it's often hidden in amongst the clouds). People were lined up taking photos from the side of the road and rightly was gorgeous!! The road into the park beautifully bisects several mountain ranges and gives off a feel that you are in real wilderness territory! Quick stat, Mount Cook is New Zealand's highest peak, and at 3755m, it's a beast!! But of all of New Zealand's other mountains over 3050m (27 in total), 22 of them are in this park, so Cooky's not alone here! The peaks are all MASSIVE and hostile-looking which makes them stunning in an eery kind of way!
During the couple of days we were there, we did a couple of walks. We couldn't go up any of the peaks really as they require all the proper gear and are quite dangerous - even to the veteran climber. A nice memorial near one of the pathways reinforces this, as it shows that quite a few people have lost their lives in the park during attempted climbs - some really quite recently. Its not a mountain range to be messed with! Our first trail was along the 'Hooker Valley Track' which was not too difficult but visually stunning all the way around, with huge glaciers and mountains dominating the walk, ending with us dipping our toes in the Hooker Glacial Lake.... = COLD!!! The next was more of a trek alongside the Tasman Glacier, a thing which is MASSIVE!! This glacier has come down from the mountain over 1000s of years and is 17 miles long and 600m thick!!!! MASSIVE!!! Unfortunately, it's covered in rocks and stones due to avalanches from the mountains but you can see parts of the glacier and on this track, could hear it creaking and cracking as it actively moves down the mountain. At one point we got ourselves up onto a ridge, which provided yet more breathtaking views. Love this place!! Easily one of our faves!!! And to top it off, we got more free choccy cake that night courtesy of a school trip making weeeey too much of it! Result!! Seriously, school trip!! My school trips took me to Tower Wood and Buxton! Mount Cook...!!! Proper trip, that!!
Queenstown next - the 'adrenaline capital' of New Zealand!! So what activities did we do...??!! Bungee? Skydiving? Canyoning?.....Nope.....Walking...... (!!) and......FRISBEE GOLF!! (we've got somet planned in a week or so, but for now, free stuff pleeeease coz we're still tight!!)! Queenstown is another place surrounded by beautiful scenery. Lake Wakitapo plays home to some of these adventure activities and there are yet more piercing mountains (sorry for getting repetitive!) surrounding the whole town, none more remarkable than the 'Remarkables' range!! Well, if you're gonna name a mountain range.........!! We first trekked up Ben Lomond, which stands at 1748m...(gloat) higher than Ben Nevis (ungloat!) get stunning panoramic views of Queenstown and beyond. We again, got lucky with the weather and my PAINFUL camera actions came fully into effect..."Kala stand over there.....Kala look at the camera.....Kala look at the mountain.....Kala walk over there.....Kala stand on that rock.....Kala do a little jump or somet!!" "Paul, jump off the bloody thing" is what I know she is thinking!! Ha ha!!
It wasn't Kala's day the following day. Not only did she get TROUNCED (very narrowly beaten actually, and the first game of golf I ever won!) at 2 games of frisbee golf (which was brilliant by the way!), but she also smashed a bowl in the hostel kitchen (ssshhhh) and then had her last piece of steak pie nicked straight out of her hand by a NINJA SEAGULL!! UNLUCKKEEYYYY!!! And this wasn't any old pie, it was "the best steak pie she has ever tasted"!!! She likes her food.....she was LIVID!! Just going back to frisbee golf....we were both crap at it really, but when Kala point blank threw her frisbee straight into a tree trunk from all of half a yard, I had lock-jaw for 5 minutes laughing!! Another where you had to be there I suppose!!
A short drive to Te Anau was next up, which is the gateway to Milford Sound. We spent a day doing a small part of one of NZs 9 great walks, the 'Kepler Track' which took us from 'Rainbow Reach' through a wooded area to a small bay called 'Shallow Bay' for a cracking view of Lake Manapouri. We virtually got the thing to ourselves which was nice and the Kepler's (and surrounding mountains), along with parts of the river we walked near, were the base for some of the 'Lord of the Rings' filming.
Milford Sound the day after. Technically, if we're being knobby about it, it should be called 'Milford Fiord' as a fiord is a 'U-shaped' carving in a huge rocky landscape that has been formed by glaciers and flooded by the sea. This is what this is (according to our guide!). The weather turned on us slightly on the drive in from Te Anau (which was shite because the drive in is supposed to be spectacular!) and we couldn't see a bloody thing because of the fog/clouds/mist!! It had cleared by the time we got there though and 'Mitre Peak' - the signature peak on the fiord, was just poking it's head out from the clouds!! Lovely view!!! A cloudy but calm day didn't spoil our kayaking on the following day there, but the outfit I had to wear nearly threatened to do so!! I looked like I was doing panto!! We both did!! Kayaking was great and got us up close to the peaks, and to a bit of wildlife. No dolphins unfortunately, but we saw penguins, a seal thrashing a fish about and even a stingray, so not bad! The peaks just sheer into the water and it is so deep that in the middle, there was apparently 400m of water underneath us!! Scary! Great morning! And the drive back out revealed some of the good stuff we missed the previous day so a decent days work!!
We're probably about halfway through NZ now and I'd say if you've got a spare 2 1/2 weeks or more and you want to go on holiday, come here!!! Yeah the flight either way would be a pain but it is a gorgeous place!! From here we head back up towards the north island, stopping at Wanaka, Fox Glacier and Abel Tasman on the way....
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Amanda H on

Tekapo! Haaaaaa seriously Tek - a - poo! I couldnt read the rest of it for laughing at that haha!

paulandkala on

Ha ha!! We never even noticed that! Surely the other one is worse - pukaki!! Ha ha!! xxx

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