Tekapo Onward

Tekapo

On my tour of New Zealand a few years back I visited Tekapo which is located on the South Island. When I arrived it was covered in two metres of snow and I realised it was a small place with not really that much to do when you compare it to somewhere like Auckland or Queenstown. But it was a charming little place nonetheless. It is nestled among some spectacular mountain ranges and on the banks of Lake Tekapo.

Lake Tekapo

Lake Tekapo

The town consisted of a few shops, one pub and a supermarket. I didn’t want to stay in my accommodation and cook for myself so I walked up to the pub where I spent a few hours drinking beer. After a while I went outside to have a cigarette and started talking to this guy, Corley. He invited me to join him and his mates. These interactions are great but it depends on how I am feeling at the time as to whether I will take the offer up. Sometimes I just want to sit by myself but this was not one of those times. I played pool with the guys. Not just any pool but the best pool I have EVER played in my life and ended up having a great night.

Lake Tekapo

Lake Tekapo

One of the guys called Christian was the biggest guy I had ever seen. Huge, like a rugby player. He was hilarious- he kept saying sorry to me when he had a bad shot and he was drinking out of a glass, smaller than a half pint glass but because he was so big it looked like he was a giant and the glass was a pint glass. I was dying to say that to him but felt it was better to keep that amusing little thought in my head.

5 am sunrise over Lake Tekapo

5 am sunrise over Lake Tekapo

Christchurch
Christchurch is a lovely city with lots to do. On my first night I had a wander to get my bearings followed by dinner and drinks. The next day I had a cultural day- arts centre, craft market, museum and botanic gardens.

Botanic Gardens, Christchurch

Botanic Gardens, Christchurch

I visited the Antarctic Centre which is very interesting The centre tells you all about what is going on in Antarctica and you can see daily pictures from Scott Base there. There is information about the history and why the projects over there are so important. You can also experience what the weather is like there in the “storm room”. The room is -8 degrees normally and when they start the wind up to 46km/h, the temperature goes down to -18 degrees. It was absolutely freezing even though we were kitted out in thermal trousers and jackets and had our faces protected. It was positively tropical when I came out of there. In Antarctica it can get as cold as -80 degrees and if you were not prepared for the conditions you would die within one minute.

Antarctic Centre, Christchurch

Antarctic Centre, Christchurch

I took a day trip from Christchurch to Akaroa- a very pretty little village town located in between some beautiful green countryside. The town is so small you don’t really need a lot of time there and I was there for the day, so after I had wandered around and taken some photographs and then walked to the lighthouse, I decided to go on a harbour cruise to while away a few hours. There was all manner of nature on that boat trip-seals, penguins and little hector dolphins. As a nature lover I was in my element and tried to take as many photographs as I could but the animals were darting here and there in the water so quickly that it was hard to take any decent photographs.

Orana wildlife park is another good day out. It’s like a safari park but it is a zoo. Let me explain- the animals are in enclosures (like a zoo) but they are large, open enclosures so the animals have more freedom and can act more naturally (like a safari park). It’s one of the best I have been too. All that separates you from the animals is a moat and electric fencing-apart from the big cats and wild dogs for obvious reasons. You can hand feed the giraffes which, I thought, was quite cool so I asked the keeper to take a photo. She didn’t manage to get a proper one so I took one of myself and the giraffe- I am not sure who looked better (it looked like we had been separated at birth). I found this quite amusing-little things always make me smile. Then to add to my amusement I got to the water buffaloes and found I was more interested in taking pictures of ducks and rainbow trout. Being on my own all that time I was bound to go a little mad.

IMG_0883

Separated at Birth?

I did meet a human friend-Ian- he was the bar man in a little bar I found in Christchurch’s city centre. He was really friendly and he kept me company for a few nights while I was there on my own- even got me involved in the bars weekly quiz night (which I was rubbish at). It’s always nice to meet a friendly soul to chat to, especially when you are travelling alone. It beats ducks and fish any day.

 

Kaikoura
Next stop Kaikoura- a beautiful little sea-side town on the east coast of the south island. I went there to do some whale-watching but it was cancelled two days on the trot due to weather conditions- the weather in the bay was very pleasant and sheltered but the coastguard said that there were three metre swells in the open ocean. The whales were even heading off shore. If they were buggering off because of the weather, then I certainly wasn’t going out on a boat. The coastguard told me that there had been a trip the day before and everyone was sea sick. So I gave up with that plan and found other ways to amuse myself.

Kaikoura

Kaikoura

I walked to the town’s resident seal colony- Peninsula Seal Colony at Kaimokehu. The New Zealand Fur seals, who bask on the rocks during the day were so close. I could have reached out and touched them. Obviously, I didn’t, I wanted to keep all my fingers. Just offshore lies the Hikurangi Trench and due to the trench’s steep sloping seafloor and currents, the trench provides nutrient rich water which attracts the seals, whales and other wildlife that frequent this area.

IMG_0981

Peninsula Seal Colony

I walked back to town and went on a tour of the Maori Leap cave. The history behind this cave I found very interesting. It is a sea cave formed from limestone, which had a natural entrance to the sea but this collapsed about 6000 years ago. Bones found in the cave, thought to be from birds that used the cave, have been dated to around the same time. The name, Maori Leap, comes from a legend of a warrior choosing to either be captured or jump for freedom when a hostile group invaded from the North Island. He chose to leap. Another legend is of lovers who came from different tribes. They were prevented from being together and jumped to their deaths to be together forever.
Afterwards, I went on a winery tour, which included a few tastings, YUM-wine, and a tour of their underground cellar, which they use for weddings and functions. I had a couple of glasses and bought two lovely bottles, one red and white.

Maori Leap Cave, Kaikoura

Maori Leap Cave, Kaikoura

On the way back I came across a Thai restaurant so I decided to go in and have dinner. That was the first time I had been able to have Thai food without shaking and hyperventilating from withdrawal symptoms of Thailand! OK, that was a bit of an exaggeration but I did miss Thailand a lot. I thought that the food wouldn’t be as good but I was pleasantly surprised. I had yellow curry and it was delicious. I was so excited that I made a complete mess of the table. Then I got sad because it reminded me of Thailand. What a drama queen!
I nearly had heart failure when I asked for a glass of wine and the waitress told me they didn’t have a liquor license. But she told me that I could “bring your own” (BYO), and lo and behold I had two bottles in my brown paper bag that I had bought from the winery. Drinking from a paper bag? What a lush. But no, thankfully she bought me a glass and I poured my own. It was quite amusing and I was chuckling to myself all the way back to the hostel where I finished off the wine.

Kaikoura

Kaikoura

Mount Maunganui
After Kaikoura I headed back to the North Island to Mount Maunganui, located in the Bay of Plenty. Mount Maunganui is also the name of the extinct volcano that stands majestically over the town. The volcano is known by its Maori name- Mauao, which means “The Mount.”

Mount Manganui

Mount Maunganui

I spent three days there and during that time I walked up to the top of Mt. Mauao. It was quite steep in places but the views from the top are worthwhile. Afterwards , I went to the local outdoor pool and relaxed in the salt water pools to ease my aching bones. This place also offers excellent views of the Mount.

Sunset in Mount Maunganui

Sunset in Mount Maunganui

Whitianga

The next day I left Mount Maunganui and headed to Whitianga, on the east coast of the Coromandel Peninsula. 12 km south east of Whitianga is Hot Water Beach, so named because of underground hot springs that filter up through the sand between high and low tides. Most visitors take a spade so they can dig large holes to wallow in the thermal water, which can reach around 64 degrees C.

Hot Water Beach

Hot Water Beach

Next stop- Cathedral Cove, or to give it its Maori name- Te Whanganui-A-Hei. A walk down from the car-park ends with this beautiful little cove and its natural rock formations- including Te Hoho Rock a natural rock stack which looms out of the blue water. Narnia fans will recognise this place as it is where the Pevensie children first re-enter Narnia in the movie- The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian.

Waitomo

After Whitianga I arrived in Waitomo for a few days en route to Auckland. Alone again I decided to do some walking, so I opted for the 2km Waitomo Walkway. This is a real highlight of this area because the walk takes you over lush green farm-land, and shady forest, and the real beauty? I did this during New Zealand’s winter so there was no one else there-just me and nature. Although it was rather muddy, the walk is easy to navigate as there were marker posts with directions. The track follows the Waitomo River to the Ruakuri Caves and Bush Scenic Reserve. The reserve has native bush, limestone outcrops, caves, tunnels, gorges and walkways high about the rushing water. Everything a nature lover could want. It’s a great way to experience the natural beauty of the place.There are viewing platforms where you can look down into the caves to see the huge stalactites and stalagmites.

The next day I went cave abseiling. It was awesome. I abseiled 50 metres down into a limestone cave, climbed back up the ladder and down again. It was a bit scary to start with when you have to let go of the platform but I really enjoyed it. Then after some lunch I went Black Water Rafting or cave tubing- basically floating through the caves on an inflated rubber inner tube. I jumped backwards off a mini waterfall and went down a slide all in the darkness underneath the ground. And apart from the tiny glow worms that light up the walls, it’s mostly completely black and very quiet. Quite an eery feeling. Words cannot explain how thrilling it actually was.

Cave Abseiling

Cave Abseiling

Black Water Rafting Map

Black Water Rafting Map

Black Water Rafting

Black Water Rafting

I loved my time in New Zealand, and I said before that I probably wouldn’t go back- a case of been there, done that. But I have since changed my mind and would love to go back one day. The scenery is just stunning and I truly had an amazing time there.

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Nelson to Queenstown

Crossing the Cook Strait on a ferry I left the North Island to continue my journey around South Island, New Zealand.

South Island

South Island

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Ferry Across the Cook Strait

Ferry Across the Cook Strait

Myself and another woman, Annette, decided that we wanted to go to Abel Tasman National Park so we stopped at Nelson for one night. Nelson is named after Admiral Horatio Nelson who defeated the French and Spanish in 1805 and is located on the eastern shores of Tasman Bay. As we there to visit the National Park we made Nelson our base so we didn’t do much else there.

Abel Tasman National Park is located at the north end of the South Island and is named after Abel Tasman who was the first European explorer to sight New Zealand in 1642. Annette and I planned to go for a hike to do some exploring so we went to Kaiteriteri, which is the gateway to the national park, and about one hour from Nelson. We met the guy who was going to take us on a water taxi to drop us off so we could walk back to the starting point, where he would pick us up again at the end of the trail.

We set off on the boat and on the way we passed a seal colony at Tonga Island and a bunch of sea-birds hanging out on “split apple” rock- so named because it looks like two halves of an apple have been split clean down the middle (Maori legend has it that it was the result of a fight between two brothers).

Water Taxi

Water Taxi

Tonga Island

Tonga Island

It was raining that day and the sea was really choppy so when we got dropped off I was promptly sick and didn’t feel so good. But the walk made me feel better. The walk started on a deserted beach where we picked up the coastal trail at the far end, and then made our way through the forest. During that season (July) there was nobody else about, so we had the place all to ourselves, which is kind of special. The trail climbs around headlands and lush forest with so many different species of trees, which are beautiful. It opens onto several gorgeous beaches and estuaries which show the diversity of the place and there are a few waterfalls on the way as well- being the winter season there was a lot of rainfall. It was a splendid way to pass a few hours.

Seals at Tonga Island

Seals at Tonga Island

Split Apple Rock

Split Apple Rock

Having only been in New Zealand for two weeks by this point I felt like I had seen and done loads and it wasn’t about to stop and the beauty of the magic bus is that you really can go where you want and see what you want to see.

 

So after leaving Nelson I arrived in Greymouth for a night but there was not much going on (it was just a pit stop really) so we went on a tour of Monteiths Brewery where we got to taste seven beers and then pour a pint of our favourite one.

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Waterfalls

Waterfalls

Estuary

Estuary

Abel Tasman Coastal Trail

Abel Tasman Coastal Trail

Deserted Beaches

Deserted Beaches

We then arrived in Franz Josef where the coolest thing to do is to hike the Franz Josef Glacier. The glacier is 12 km long and located in Westland Tai Poutini National Park. We were supposed to be doing the glacier hike the day after we arrived but when we got up it was raining so hard that we decided to put it off for another day on the off chance that it would be a nice day. And we were glad we did because the following day was perfect for hiking- it was amazing- very cold but it was worth it, the views were stunning. We had to wear crampons on our boots as walking in normal boots just would not have worked. We were on the ice for a good 6-7 hours and it was tough going in places- squeezing

View from the Abel Tasman Coastal Trail

View from the Abel Tasman Coastal Trail

through tight ice passages and using our ice picks to haul ourselves a bit further up the glacier but completely worth the effort- in places the brilliant blue colours of the ice were incredible.

Blue Ice

Franz Josef Glacier

Glacier Hiking

Next stop-Queenstown- the party place of the South Island. Don’t get me wrong you can party anywhere you want but Queenstown is renowned for being the liveliest place and the skiing is good in that area, so I was told. It was raining again but that didn’t dampen our spirits when, on the way, we were treated to more seal colonies and pancake rocks where we got off the bus to have a look. Pancake Rocks are located at Dolomite Point, near Punakaiki on the western coast of the South Island. In this area as well the sea explodes out of vertical blowholes at high tide and there is a walk-way where you can see the rocks up close-the rocks are limestone rocks created by pressure on hard and soft layers of marine creatures and plant sediment.

Pancake Rocks

There is so much stuff to do in Queenstown so one of the days I was there I did a day trip to Milford Sound- it was absolutely stunning. It is a fjord in the south west of the South Island and has been judged as the world’s top travel destinations (2008 Travellers Choice Destinations Awards by Trip Advisor) and hailed to be New Zealand’s most famous tourist stop. We had a perfect day- still very cold but the sun was shining although it was very windy on the boat and I nearly got knocked off my feet. The boat leaves the port and makes it’s way through the fjord to the Tasman Sea and back again- it is surrounded by sheer rock faces rising to 1200 metres on both sides. We saw dolphins and seals and there are two permanent waterfalls- Lady Bowen Falls and Stirling Falls.

Blow Hole

Blow Hole

The last thing I did when I was in Queenstown was to go horse riding in Glenorchy, which is about 45 kilometres away. I love horse riding so when I found out that there were stables nearby I jumped at the chance. We rode out through the Rees Valley amidst a landscape of rocks and glacial fed rivers with beautiful mountains all around. The scenery is just incredible. In fact the mountains were the“misty mountains” from Lord of The Rings and the guide showed us where they had filmed the Isengard scenes. I rode for three hours in the morning, on a horse called Cecil, who was very well behaved. They dropped me off for lunch at the local cafe, and picked me up later to go for another two hour ride. Cecil was a bit friskier in the afternoon and kept bucking his hind legs, which took me completely by surprise and as such nearly had me off a couple of times but I managed to stay in the saddle. Afterwards I did wonder how come I could spend the day walking over a volcano and up a glacier and not ache in the slightest but five hours on a horse and it was a very different story. Nevertheless, it was a beautiful way to spend the day- just you, your horse and nature all around you.

Kia’Ora from New Zealand

This post was originally done as a guest post for http://www.processingthelife.com but I thought I would share it on my own blog as well.. Hope you like it!

Having spent the last seven months in my beloved Thailand, I flew to Auckland, New Zealand where I would spend the next seven weeks. This was all part of my travelling plan but when I first got there I hated it! I had left behind some good friends and my gosh it was so cold. I hadn’t worn any winter clothes, let alone proper shoes, since leaving the UK in the January. I knew I would feel better in a few days but for the first few days I couldn’t muster even the smallest smile and I mooched about in a state of self-pity! I was missing the friends, that I had made in Thailand, the weather, the culture, everything about it- I just felt a little lost and lonely.

auckland

Auckland

Auckland

However, that feeling changed when I booked myself onto a “Magic Bus” tour. This bus takes you round the whole country, you can get on and off where and when you want, and get picked up again from where you are to continue your trip, and you see loads of cool stuff. There are different tours you can go on, but I chose the one that took me round the whole of the north and south islands. And depending on what you want to do and where you want to go, you can either stick with the same bus or, if you want to spend more than one night in a place, you get picked up by the next bus on the same journey.

The Magic Bus

The Magic Bus

And it is a great way to meet like-minded people. You naturally start talking to people and I made friends with a few good people and we had a lot of fun together.

So my little tour began-

The first destination was Rotorua, which is about 230 km southeast from Auckland and it is a major tourist destination, due to its geothermal activity- including Lady Knox Geyser, and several hot mud pools that bubble away amidst a very steamy atmosphere. And because of the hydrogen sulphide emissions Rotorua is also called “Sulphur City”- it smells of rotten eggs everywhere you go.

Rotorua Mud Pools

Rotorua Mud Pools

Along the way the bus stops off at various places and, on the way to Rotorua, I watched someone do a bungee jump. Kirsty, one of the girls I met, tried it- she got all the way to the edge of the platform and couldn’t do it. It does look amazing, especially when you get dunked in the water below, but throwing yourself off a platform, with an 80 foot drop below is not my idea of fun.

Lady Knox Geyser

Lady Knox Geyser

View From the 80 foot Bungee Jump

View From the 80 foot Bungee Jump

I went to visit Tamaki Maori Village where I was treated to a Maori culture show, a traditional Hangi feast and a walk around the village to learn about Maori art forms, traditions and ways of life. The men also did the “Haka”, which is an ancient war dance, something that the All Blacks rugby team begin a match with.

The next stop was Lake Taupo and here I visited the fast, powerful and beautifully coloured Huka Falls. Later we took our bus driver, Terry, for a few beers at the local pub. I don’t know why I chose this night to have a few beers and not get to bed until 1.30am, when I had to be up at 5.30am the next day to hike across an active volcano.

Tamaki Maori Village

Tamaki Maori Village

So 5.30am the next day, feeling a little hung-over, I started on the hike across Mount Tongariro- Mount Tongariro is in Tongariro National Park (New Zealand’s first national park and one of the earliest in the world). It is a beautiful volcano located in the Taupo Volcanic Zone of the north island. I had five layers of clothing on-it was that cold-and it took about eight hours to cross from Tongariro to Ngauruhoe.IMG_1923

Friends

Friends

The scenery is dramatic and in parts covered in snow, especially higher up, but parts, lower down the mountain, had running mountain springs and plants that were growing up out of the melted snow.

Mount Doom

Mount Doom

I climbed up the side of

Tongariro Mountain Springs

Tongariro Mountain Springs

Mount Doom which, for Lord of the Rings fans, is very, very cool! At the summit I had lunch and literally felt that I was on top of the world- it was such a sense of achievement having reached the summit- it was not an easy climb up- and the views would have been awesome but the clouds were covering the peaks of the mountains. (Literally a feeling of being on top of the world)

The way down was rather amusing as the slope was steep and the easiest way was to inch your way down, much like when you’re on skis, but on that particular slope the ground was covered in hot rocks, rather than snow and they were really slippy- the only way down was to slide down on my backside! Anyway, I slid, fell on my arse, ended up in a heap with five other people and none of us could move because we would have all slid down the mountain. We eventually made it to the bottom, not without some hysterical laughter on the way down.

A View From The Summit

A View From The Summit

Made it to the Finish

Made it to the Finish

I went to Wellington- the capital of New Zealand- where I had a great night with my new friends, making it one of the best places so far. I had turned into a proper backpacker- sleeping in YHA dorms, buying my own food and staying in! We went out to supermarket and we (we being- myself, James, Sheena, Nicholas and Annette- a few friends I had made on the

The Way Down

The Way Down

way) made a lovely spaghetti bolognaise and happily chatted about our travels so far. I had been living like a princess in Thailand, staying in hotels, eating out every night but no longer could I afford such luxury-nor did I want to because some of the best times you have are the most simple ones.

Wellington

Wellington

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