Mountains, Lakes, Dolphins & Burgers.

Trip Start Aug 21, 2009
Trip End Aug 20, 2010

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Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Friday, December 18, 2009

Flo: Hi :) So, yea the ferry to the South Island from Wellington took around 3 hours. The ferry is pretty big, it even has a pub and a restaurant on board! We sat up on top deck to watch the dolphins follow us as we left Wellington, and again when we came into the Queen Charlotte Sound area at the end of the journey. The scenery coming in to PIcton (where we were to meet our 2nd Kiwi Experience bus) was amazing, little houses on the shore with huge mountains behind them, and lots of deep blue water.

We got to Picton and unloaded our bags, then headed out to meet our new bus driver, called Matt. He was only 24 and we hit the road straight away heading for Nelson.

Simon: Kia Ora! On the way we stopped at a boutique winery for some wine/schnapps tasting, and a big Hokey Pokey ice cream!! mmmmmmm!!!!!! (That's Honeycomb pieces!) After the winery our driver decided to have a quiz on the bus, and Flo & I teamed up with an American dude called Casey and a girl called Nikki. The questions were half NZ based and half general knowledge. Being incredibly intelligent(!) we obviously came first, but it was joint first with another team (Damn you Jade, Steve, Laura & Nathan!) but the tiebreaker wasn't a question. It was to give the driver a pair of male & female underwear. Nathan being 18 and a bit of a naturist decided to just take off all of his clothes and streak down the bus. We decided he most definitely deserved the win!! They did win an enormous ice cream each tho, gutted :(

Flo: We also stopped at a river so people could have a swim, because it was around 26 degrees! About half the bus jumped in the river (we didn't, couldn't be bothered to get our swimming costumes out!) and most of the tried jumping off of huge rocks into the water (slightly dangerous!) Our driver Matt told us that we weren't allowed to jump off of the bridge, well, the bridge was about 30ft above the river, and the river was only about 8ft deep! Nobody dared jumping, but Matt said he'd done it loads of times - Crazy!

Simon: We got to Nelson and settled into our hostel. We got an 8 bed dorm completely to ourselves and everyone else had to share, all for $7 more! Nelson is the geographical centre point of New Zealand, so we took a hike 40minutes up a hill to the exact centre point. The views over Nelson and across the bay towards the Abel Tasman National Park were amazing (Amazing views and scenery are kind of a theme on the south island!)

Next day we were up bright and early (as always) to head to Westport. Because it was still really warm, we had another chance to have a swim at Nelson Lakes National Park, in Lake Rotoiti. There's a pier that extends around 20ft into the lake, and it was too good a photo op to miss, with the mountains in the background (great scenery again see!) i had to jump in. 

It was absolutely FREEZING! Imagine leaving water in the freezer until the top starts to freeze, Imagine the coldness when someone puts an ice cube down your top, well it was colder! I jumped, posed mid-air, and hit the water. 

I couldn't breathe for like 10 seconds!!! It was Soooooooooooooooooo Cold! And then it wasn't! after about 20 seconds it's like a bath! loll!

Well needless to say, Flo didn't do it!

Flo did however go horse riding at our next stop in the Buller Valley.

Flo: Horse Riding was really good, i cant remember the name of the horse i rode, he was good but a little excitable and that made it more fun! The ride was really good, we rode along the beach and through river. I did however decide to wear shorts which was a very stupid idea and ended up burning my leg (due to it rubbing on the stirrup leather) which then blistered and looked horrible!! I still have the scar :(

Simon: Whilst Flo was riding, I went to our hostel in Westport to settle in. We were in a room with a couple of dudes called James (both!) who were friends. We chatted for a bit about men stuff, like guns and football and stuff, then Flo got back. That night all the guys (and half the girls) on the bus played football on the field opposite the hostel, then we all sat in the Hostel lounge after and watched Zoolander! Was really cool to have a night chilling out and doing not much!

On the bus we stopped by the Punakaiki pancake rocks (rocks, that look like pancakes stacked up) and a seal colony before grabbing some lunch and some fancy dress outfits! That night we were staying at the legendary Poo pub with the 87 year old Les, New Zealand's oldest publican. It's a Kiwi Experience tradition that the driver picks a theme for your 'Poo Party' (ours was 'when i grow up i want to be a….') and you buy your outfits from a charity shop. I wanted to be a pilot, and i luckily bagged an awesome (but really skanky and dirty) jumpsuit and some $5 aviators, and Flo got a Doctors coat and a rubber chicken to be a vet! Obviously the main aim of the night is getting drunk and having fun, and we did both of those!!

The outfits were absolutely hilarious, one Canadian guy dressed as David Hasselhoff, a german girl dressed as a Diver, complete with flippers and scuba gear(!) Some girl dressed as Michael Jackson, the 2 James' (who we shared a room with) dressed as a Pimp and a Ho, both looking completely awesome! The less said about Nathan's 'Naked Chef' outfit, the better…..!

Flo: The whole next day rained. A lot! The West Coast of New Zealand has a lot of rain! We were headed for the town of Franz Josef, so we could climb a glacier! We stayed at a really beautiful hostel called Rainforest Retreat (because even thought there's a glacier, it's also a rainforest!). The Hostel had a massive hot tub and a pub in the grounds, and we had our own chalet building at the front of the site. We ran into a girl we met in Fiji in the kitchen, then we went to the pub for a drink and to play killer pool (Simon didn't win).

The reason we came to Franz Josef was the glacier. Me and Simon wanted to do the deluxe super-dooper Helicopter Hike, where we got in a helicopter and landed at the top of the glacier and hiked around for a few hours. But we couldn't, because the flights weren't running due to the torrential rain. So we had to do the full day hike from the bottom with everyone else :( I was NOT looking forward to it, because our driver Matt said it was pretty difficult. Simon was looking forward to it though, so we decided to split up on the Hike, Simon went in the fast first group and i went in the middle group. We walked through the valley floor towards the glacier and we had to paddle through a river that came up to my shins. Our guide said the river didn't exist yesterday, but because of rainfall, it was getting deeper!

We got to the Terminal Face of the glacier (we'd heard in the news a couple of weeks before about how it collapsed and crushed 2 people to death!) and we put our crampons on. For those of you who don't know, crampons are big metal spikes that strap on to your boots so you can dig them into the ice to walk. Then Simon's group went off first.

Simon: I was really disappointed we couldn't do the Heli Hike, but i wanted to hike a glacier (who else has done that?!). We set off up the face of the glacier on steps that our guide had cut out with a pick axe. they were barely big enough for our feet and they had been worn a bit, so they were really tricky to walk up, and we only had a flimsy rope to hold onto! We got to the top of the face and our guide pointed out where we had to walk to, and everyone gulped! It was MILES!!!

We stopped at an ice pool where melting water had collected, and we tipped out our bottled water and filled out bottles with fresh glacier water!! It was so delicious, but freezing, and my hands were numb from holding the bottle in!!

Flo: We set off just after them, after struggling to put my crampons on! We did pretty much the same walk as Simon but just a little slower. We saw lots of good ice caves and waterfalls on the walk. We stopped for some lunch, my sandwich was soaked by the time i had finished it! Our guide gave me some new glove because my hand were soaking wet and freezing cold. The guide gave one of the ladies in our group a foot massage because she couldn't feel her feet!! After lunch we carried on walking up, some parts were very scary and I was worried I was going to fall down a big ice hole! I only fell over once which I think is pretty impressive! Let just say my bum was a little sore! Even though it was raining most of the day the views were still amazing. Going down was actually a little harder than going up, our guide was practically running down but we were all pretty slow and not used to using the crampons. 

Simon: Up at the top of the glacier the clouds parted and gave us an amazing view of the glacier and the valley floor below. We were on the crest of a giant 30ft 'wave' of ice that we'd climbed up using tiny little steps. Going down is always the difficult part though, and climbing over it was REALLY hard with such tiny steps and size 12 feet! my crampon got caught in my trousers and i stumbled forward and slid down about 10 feet to the watery bottom. I was fine though, and it saved the last bit of climbing!

The rest of the descent was fine, but really hair raising as the weather closed in quickly and got really dark really fast. Our guide as a result upped the pace and we were basically running. Bare in mind that we were running on a sheet of ice, and each step we had to stamp down to get ANY grip, more than a few times i tripped and nearly went face first into a chasm!!

When we got to the bottom, i was soaked through. To the bone. my backpack was dripping, and my feet hurt. We still had to walk back across the valley floor, so we took off our crampons and started the walk. Remember the shin-deep river we walked through? Well now it was nearly waist deep and flowing really fast!!! two guides stood down river to make sure nobody was swept away! I didn't even notice the water, because i was soaked already. I got the bus back and waited for Flo to get back too, because her group missed the bus!! Needless to say, the heater in our room got a work  out that night! And we had a few pints to celebrate not dying!

Flo: I was very glad to get back and have a hot shower to defrost myself!

Being really sore next day, and thoroughly sick of the rained, we left Franz Josef and about 10 minutes down the road the sun came out. Typical. We were headed to one of the prettiest places i've ever been, Wanaka.

Flo: We drove through the rain for a bit before we drove up a mountain where they have the most mudslides in New Zealand (There was still some mud left on the side of the road from the last one!) And through a pass to the other side. The other side it was NOT raining! woohoo!! As we kept on driving more mountains appeared either side of us, huge mountains with snowy peaks and sheep. Lots of sheep.

The road took us between Lake Hawea and Lake Wanaka and we stopped a few times for postcard photo ops! We got to Wanaka and immediately were impressed with the hostel, especially the view, which was over the lake with the mountains in the background.

That night we took about 9 people with us to the cinema. We'd heard from a few people that this cinema was amazing, but we had to try it out. It only had 1 screen, and showed 3 showings a day, but it was the best cinema ever!! Before the screening they bake cookies and muffins and make home-made ice-cream, and at the interval we had hot chocolate with marshmallows! The seats were sofas and airline seats and cushions and a car(!). The film (2012) wasn't very good, but the experience was really cool. well worth it!

The next day the bus left but we stayed behind by ourselves, because Simon had a cold and we fancied a day relaxing and having a walk around the town.

Simon: After i'd recovered from my little cold with the help of coffee and marshmallows on the lake shore, We got back on the Kiwi bus the next day with a new driver (Duncan) and a whole new group (they were boring!) The drive was pretty short though, and we only had a few stops, one to a fruit shack where we ate lots of free samples and bought some yummy cherries and nougat, and the other at the famous Kawarau Bridge. Site of the worlds first commercial Bungee jump. 

We went in the visitor centre and watched a video before we went out on the deck to watch the idiots - sorry - people, jump off with a big rubber string tied to their legs. Mental. No way on earth would either of us ever do it. Ever.

We got to our destination, party capital of New Zealand; Queenstown, mid afternoon, and immediately tried to find people from our Kiwi bus, not the losers from the new bus. We checked into a room, and the James' & Nikki from our old bus were already there! We said hey and caught up before heading almost immediately over to Queenstowns' best known food outlet, the absolutely fantastically amazing FERGBURGER!!!!!!!!! To give you an idea of how completely awesome it is, you never need to order chips. Not even one between two. The burgers are frisbee-sized, and they are thicker than my arm! They're not only big, but they taste absolutely amazing. Best. Burger. Ever.

The first time we went (we visited 4 times) i had a Mr Big Stuff (That's 2 huge burgers in 1) and Flo had the fish sandwich (which was like 2 fillets from the fish & chip shop, in a bun!!) Second and third time i had just a regular Fergburger, even Flo had a regular beef Fergburger! (Flo: I felt a little ill afterwards!) Last time we went i had the Big Al. It's the biggest burger they do, and it's giant. 2 burgers, 6 rashers of bacon, 3 types of cheese, 2 eggs, 2 slices of beetroot (they bloody love beetroot in NZ!) and half a garden. Amazing. A. MAZE. ING.

Flo: That night we went out with everyone from our Kiwi Experience bus and got a little bit drunk (sorry mum!) We went to World Bar and had cocktails out of teapots and danced until 3am! 

We woke up late the next day, and decided that a good hangover cure was going luging down the side of a mountain! I wasn't going to do it to start with, but the guys who came with us (Canadian Tom and Nikki) made me do it, and i'm so glad they did! It was so much fun! we went down the scenic run first to practice, then we got the ski lift back up and went on the advanced run 5 times in a row! The last time around we all lined up for an awesome photo and we got given it for free!!

Simon: The number one thing to do in New Zealand is visit Milford Sound. I think it's won like a million awards as the most beautiful place on earth, so we thought we'd better go. We went on a day trip and left REAL early, because it took around 4 hours from Queenstown. On the journey we stopped off a few times at some mirror lakes and a valley with a purple carpet of Lupin flowers, as well as a coupe of coffee breaks. We also stopped at a stream that we could fill our water bottles from because it was so pure. The scenery on the drive TO Milford Sound was awesome. We couldn't wait to get there!

We got to Milford sound and went on a 3 hour cruise, and it was Beautiful. imagine Jurassic Park, or The Lost World, it looked like a film set, it looked so different to anything i'd ever seen before. The water was dead calm, and then the walls rose hundreds of feet straight up out of the water. It had rained a few days before, so the guide told us around 300 waterfalls were active, and the captain sailed us under one! It was so beautiful & quiet, when the captain turned off the engine, you could hear absolutely nothing. We cruised out through the Sound to the sea, then we stopped for a while, saw some dolphins (well me and Tine saw some, no one else did!) and cruised on back in, stopping off at an underwater observatory. We had an amazing day.

Flo: When we got back to Queenstown, we walked down the street to the supermarket and back, and bumped into my friend Vicki from my old workplace! i knew she was in New Zealand, but we didn't contact each other while we were there, so we had no clue where each other was, but we saw her coming out of Fergburger (where else?!) it was so strange!

That night we went out to say goodbye to all our friends who were leaving the next day, and it was a bit sad, because we had finished our Kiwi Experience pass, and were leaving our friends.

The last day in Queenstown we chilled out and went down to the waterfront, and we bumped into another of our friends from the North Island, Becky! We chatted for a bit and visited her hostel, Nomads, in the evening. After having lots of fun in QT, we left the next day early, heading for Christchurch.

On the way to Christchurch we made several stops, one at the bluest prettiest lake ever, Lake Tekapo. On a clear day you can see Aoraki Mt Cook (Simon: Aoraki means "Cloud Piercer" in Maori) and the Mountains in the background and the blue water in front of it. The day we got there, it was super-dooper windy! we were both being blown backwards when we walked! It was very tiring in New Zealand, because EVERYWHERE there were beautiful lakes, mountains and views! 

Simon: Incidentally, The south island mountains are what gives New Zealand it's Maori name "Aotearoa", which means "Land of the Long, White Cloud". When Maori people first spotted the Southern Alps from sea, they thought the snow caps were huge long white clouds, hence the name!

Flo: Anyway, We got to Christchurch in the evening after 8 hours of driving(!) and we called my friend Ruth, who lives in Christchurch, to pick us up, because we were staying with her! Exciting!

After she picked us up and we chatted for a whole evening, Ruth had lots of fun things planned for our few days with us, the first full day we explored Chirstchurch and Ruth took us to an art centre where her Boyfriend Tristan's mum works as an artist. We looked at her work and saw lots of cool sculptures and an art fair. That night Tristan made us some yummy sushi and we went to bed early, because we had to be up early. Why? Well, because we were going SWIMMING WITH DOLPHINS!!! :) :) :)

Tristan drove us there (it took about 90 minutes) and we chilled around in the little town of Akaroa (more about the town later). We were going swimming with the Worlds smallest and rarest dolphins, Hector's Dolphins. First we had to get into a wetsuit, mine was easy, but a bit tight! Simon had to ask for a bigger one because his shoulders wouldn't fit in it! Once we had them on and our little boots and snorkels to match, we headed for our boat, where there was about 10 of us. The sea was really calm and we found dolphins after about 5 minutes! We all slowly climbed down the ladder into the chilly water and floated about in our wetsuits. Then the dolphins appeared! I forgot about the water straight away and they were swimming all around us!! We weren't allowed to touch them because they're endangered, but they swam about 2 inches away from us, so we could have easily!! We swam in the water with them for about an hour and 20 minutes, at one point there was about 11 dolphins all around us, going between our legs and between me and simon when we were about 3 feet apart! It was amazing, definitely the best thing we'd done so far on our trip, worth every penny.

Simon: Yea, it was pretty cool. MUCH better than the really touristy commercial ones where you swim in a tank with one dolphin. Anyway, that night we went out to some funky bars with Ruth, Tristan and a few of their friends. We passed an art gallery and had a quick peek, and it was a bit strange! Then we went and played pool at a bar until late.

Next day we left Christchurch on the Coastal train up to Picton to meet with Flo's parents and sisters and Ben. The train ride took around 5 hours and the coastal scenery was beautiful, we could even spot seals from our seats! We got into Picton and they were all waiting for us at the platform. Flo was very excited to see them all :) 

Flo: Once we had said hello, we all got into the cars and drove to Blenheim, on the way we stopped at a VERY windy beach for a picnic. Blenheim is the capital of the wine making region of Marlborough. We stayed in a holiday villa which overlooked a vineyard and mountains, and had a swimming pool and tennis court. We used both lots! We also had a BBQ one evening. 

The next day it was wine tour day :) We hired some bikes and peddled around 5 vineyards and tasted lots of wine. My favourite was dessert wine, it was yummy and sweet :) Simon preferred the reds, my mum liked them all!!! :) We stopped at a good winery for some lunch which was really good apart from one of the cheeses tasted like feet!! The journey back to was by far the hardest, after a few glasses of wine! 

We drove south for a few hours the next day to Kaikoura, where we went Whale watching. The boat ride was extremely choppy and when we stood out on the front of the boat, we went up and down about 10metres! We saw 5 Sperm whales coming up for air and then diving back down again, every time they dived the tail pointed out of the water and everyone's camera was clicking away!! After we spotted the whales, the captain took us to a pod of about 300 dolphins, and it looked like the sea was alive! They were in a big group and when we arrived they all started jumping and flipping and showing off! After a very bumpy boat ride back to shore, and with everyone trying the sea sickness "cures" like pinching you finger and watching the horizon, we all felt a bit green.

Simon: especially the ladies! The very best part about the whale watching was that the place where you go to pay and buy gifts etc was in a railway station. Combine Whales with a Railway station and you get……. a WHALEway Station!!!! Genius!!! They even had a plaque (check the pictures!)

That afternoon we drove through the Kaikoura mountain ranges to Hanmer Springs high up in the mountains. We wasted no time in going to the geothermal spa and relaxing in the warm water before having a nice meal out at a pub in the evening.

The next morning was Christmas Eve!! It was warm and sunny, and Flo & her family went horse riding (she'll tell you about that) except for me, her dad and little sister,  we went and played mini golf! Her dad won, and her sister lost horribly(!!!) and we had ice cream after.

Flo: Me, my mum, Eleanor and Ben went horse riding, we decided to go on the longer ride, nearly 3 hours! The stable owner had lots of sheep, one who thought he was a dog and would go into the office and would like everyone to stroke it!! The ride was really good, through the woods and over mountains. Ben was filming us most of the way, even when we were in canter, he wasn't holding on and turning around filming us! He's a little crazy! This time I was sensible and wore long trousers so did blisters my legs like last time!

Simon: We hadn't even thought about Christmas yet, and it was the day before!! We had to go to the Warehouse (Where EVERYONE gets a bargain!! ha!) to pick up some supplies, and to a supermarket for Christmas dinner!! Then we drove the last part down to our home for Christmas Eve & Christmas Day, Akaroa (where we swam with dolphins the week before!). We had 2 cabins booked on a hill overlooking the harbour in a holiday park, the views were beautiful. Akaroa village is a French settlement on a dormant volcano, with a pretty little harbour and little french shops. We got there later on in the evening, so we walked down into town to have a nice meal for Christmas Eve. It was strange because there were nearly no Christmas decorations at all anywhere in New Zealand, so we pretty much forgot it was Christmas!

We woke up on Christmas morning and had Smoked salmon & scrambled eggs, then opened some presents (i got socks, a water pistol, some cash and some fudge!) Then we walked down and had a southern hemisphere Christmas Day on the beach! Ben went Kayaking in the harbour and saw dolphins that we swam with! When he returned, we all packed up and went back to the cabins to cook Christmas lunch. We didn't have Turkey, we had prawns, burgers and salad! By now it was normal for it to be strange, and it was yummy, so we didn't really think about it! Then we had the best part - Ben's Christmas pudding! It was so delicious, and the most Christmassy part of the day!

Flo: It was nice to spend christmas with my family but it was very strange to go to the beach on Christmas day! We ate our lunch on the grass whilst being attacked by seagulls! Me and Simon have now decided we need to spend Christmas in a VERY cold place this year! 

At 2am we woke up and my mum & dad drove us back to Christchurch for our 6am flight to Sydney, Australia!! Until next time…. BYE! :) x

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