16.02.2016 - 20.02.2016 24 °C
Rob is still traumatised from writing the last entry so it's back to me to carry on our journey past Franz Josef, first stop being 10 minutes along a windy mountain road (the only road that runs along the west coast of the south island) to Lake Matheson, also known as the reflection lake for its reflected views of the Fox Glacier and Mount Cook on non drizzly days. The hike around the lake takes just over an hour and considering it's a lake walk is remarkably hilly, but the beautiful scenery keeps the legs pumping. As with all of New Zealand so far the amount of insect and bird noise along the walk was just incredible.
A few shots of the gorgeous views at the lake. Mount Cook (New Zealand's tallest mountain) is just where the cloud is in the middle of the picture
From there the bus winds about the mountains heading into the south island ski country via Haast. A quick stop and trek into the trees bought us to Thunder Creek Falls......
Our overnight stop was a beautiful lake side town called Wanaka, on the shores of Lake..... Wanaka. The lake is surrounded by mountains which contain the largest ski resorts on the south island. Although Wanaka is a ski town in the winter it isn't like a European ski resort and none of the ski lifts were visible from the town, it seems in New Zealand you have to drive to the lifts and then back down to the town post swish. We by fluke ended up away from the large standard (partyish) Kiwi Experience hostel due to the sheer numbers on the bus and ended up in a sweet little hostel called the Flying Kiwi. If you ever find yourself in Wanaka in need of a bed look it up! Free BBQ's, free internet, free herbs from the garden etc etc. We felt in the need for a bit of a relax so headed to the local cinema, a place called Paradiso. All the seats were large squishy armchairs/sofas, alcohol through the film was practically encouraged and they still have the long missed interval during the film. We saw Deadpool (which Rob won't stop raving about) and were served wine with a cheese platter during the interval.
The next morning we visited Puzzling World on the outskirts of the town, and spent a good 75 minutes trying to find our way out of their large maze. We found our way to all 4 corner towers pretty quick but then for the life of us could not find the exit gate! We refound all towers at least once more before we finally escaped.
Here is us celebrating our victory (we walked over 6km in defeating this maze!)
Onwards from Wanaka we had a short drive over a mountain pass to another winter ski surrounded "city" with the name of Queenstown. Most people will know this as "the adventure capital of the world" and the home of bungy. First stop of the day was the Kawarau Bridge Bungy, the world's first commercial bungy which stands and a now measly 43m. There was no way I fancied this activity, even with their offer to dunk you in the river below during the bungy. Rob was becoming more and more tempted and I believe with longer he would have signed up, which tells me I have married a crazy person.
Not as crazy as the guy in these pics....
Queenstown is also the place where many Kiwi Experiencers part ways, so is where a large bar crawl occurs. This starts with a rather lush $10 BBQ dinner (although ours was cooked in the kitchen due to the continuous rain throughout our Queenstown stay). Luckily there are no photos available from this rather messy night, but I can say Queenstown has a lot of good bars! We were lucky to have some great company for the bus and had a great night with them in the bars, and a few laughs at various hangovers in the dorm the next morning.
For our second day in Queenstown I thought I would go all glamorous and repack my bag that was becoming quite unruly. We had lunch at the infamous Fergburger
to fuel an afternoon of amazing white water rafting through Lord of the Rings country. I have now paddled where many a hobbit has passed through the Gates of Argonath before me. A quick sauna later and I thought I better head back to the World Bar for another teapot cocktail with our roomies before we parted ways the next morning.
A lush Bloom Teapot
View from the balcony of the dorm as the sun came up
Next overnight stop was Lake Tekapo, with some quick photo opportunities in a tiny town called Twizel, and then Lake Pukaki (another view of a cloudy Mount Cook).
Our next wedding present awaited us in Lake Tepako, the Tepako Springs (thank you Proc and Laura). We took full advantage of all the pools, steam rooms and saunas, and as you can see in the pictures below the scenery of the Southern Alps across Lake Tepako wasn't bad either.
Lake Tepako is in the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve, which means there is a ban on light at night for many a mile, and lots of astronomers base themselves around the lake on the hills to use the observatories there. It is we are told one of the best places for stargazing and space studying in the world, so we just had to go on a brilliantly nerdy very late night visit to the Cowen Observatory to learn about the southern night sky. I could not rave about this enough. I got to use a telescope in it's own dome, worth more than most cars. We viewed nebulas from the start of the universe, to a new born binary star, to the moons of Jupiter! It was amazing and despite the chill they had to drag me back down the hill at the end of the tour. I can also now navigate ships using the Southern Cross if anyone needs a girl with that skill. If anyone is interested Google Earth and Sky Tours and feel jealous of my geek side. Obviously there are again no pictures of this as any light e.g. phone screens or camera flashes are completely forbidden, plus would have ruined the heavenly view and feel of the night.
Now we are back in sunshine of Christchurch. We walked another 6 miles around the city absorbing more of the destruction and rebuild. We visited the botanical gardens and an amazing bar called Astro Lounge, which is to be found behind the door to the Tardis...
and Rob drank some manly cocktails.
Our time on the South Island comes to an end in about 36 hours, and although most people could have told us long ago, 2 and half weeks is just not long enough to see this amazing country. Almost every stop we could have spent at least another night, and in Queenstown I could have spent at least a week. We didn't make it to Milford Sound, or even up the gondola to view the city from above. As places go I think Queenstown would be near the top of my list for work, spend the day dealing with crazy idiots hurting themselves with adventure sports before mopping up drunken muppets from the bars at night, and everyone is so friendly here they'd just be fun drunks not abusive ones like I encounter too often at home. Rob is still head over hills for Christchurch, the lure of rebuilding a city from near scratch may yet prove to be too strong for him, but we shall see as we still have so many other amazing places to visit left on this trip.