April 28, 2011

This last week has been incredible! We were up bright and early the day after Luke's birthday to catch our 930 ferry to stewart island. The 4 days we had there went by so fast! When we first got there we lugged our giant backpacks to the hostel, Stewart Island Backpackers, then headed to the visitor center to plan our weekend. We tried to book a fishing trip for the next day (Saturday), but we weren't promised anything since it was a busy holiday weekend. So we registered our interest and went on a walk to Ackers Point. It is half road and half path with a bit of beach in the middle, but the views at the end were amazing (despite the little bit of rain we experienced along the way). We walked through a little bit of forest then it opened up into the view of the water which was incredible. Thanks to the tide coming in we raced across the beach on the way back trying to keep our feet from getting wet! That afternoon we checked back in with the visitor center to see if there was going to be a fishing trip for us the next day. Unfortuantely, there wasn't, but we made friends with one of the really nice women at the visitor center and she said she'd do her best to find us something before we left. So we headed up the road to the only grocery store on the island to get some food for dinner. When we left the store we heard our names being called out and turned to see it was our friend from the visitor center. So we headed back there to see what she was yelling about. It turns out she was able to book us on a boat for Monday, so at least we had that to look forward to. She also told us where we could go looking for some Kiwi's after dark. So we went back and relaxed at the hostel, then headed out Kiwi hunting. We didn't see anyhing except other people looking for kiwis! We decided tomorrow night we'd go a little bit later.

The next day we woke up and headed back to the visitor center. We had heard about a nearby island called Ulva Island and thought it might be worth a visit. So we booked a trip on a boat to this really small even more remote than Stewart Island. It is basically all owned by the department of conservation except one small section which is privately owned. We did a walk around the island through untouched rainforest and saw some amazing beaches with golden sand. We stopped for lunch at the last beach which was the furthest point from where we started, West End Beach. When we sat down to eat this endangered bird called the weka started taking some interest in us. First I took a drink from my water bottle, and when I put it down he pecked at it like it was food. Then he started crawling all over Luke. Finally we started eating out sandwiches and he literally lept at my peanut butter and jelly! Luke then had to tease the birds with some gingerbread cookies making two fight over one piece. Then he felt bad and gave the other one a piece too. That was probably the sunniest day we had while we were there so it was perfect for the hike and the beaches. We saw loads of other types of rare New Zealand birds as well - Bellbirds, Tui, Pigeons, and the robin. That night we waited until about 930 to go Kiwi hunting hoping that all the people out hunting the night before would be fast asleep by then. We were right, we were the only ones out that night looking for kiwis. Even the kiwis weren't out! It was still really fun hunting through the woods for them though!

The next day the weather was interesting. When we woke up it was sunny and warm so we put on shorts and went down to see when we could rent bikes from the visitor center. Once again our friend helped us out by reserving some bikes for us that afternoon. We headed back to the hostel to have lunch and change into warmer clothes since it seemed to be getting a little bit colder out. By the time we got to the visitor center to pick up our bikes it was drizzling. We were headed to this place called Lees point where there are these chains that have to do with this story that says a fisherman used stewart island as his anchor. By the time we made it up and over the first hill we were not only panting bus also soaking wet from the rain. It was too late now so we kept going. There were a few difficult hills but they always brought with them a nice breezy downhill. It was great to finally make it to Lee's Point. Too bad it was raining so badly that there was no where to go to admire the view without getting even more soaked. Since we were already drenched we wandered around a little bit taking some photos before heading back up the massive hills to the visitor center. We originally rented the bikes for four hours, but by the time we made it back to the visitor center we were soaked, soar, and maybe a little bit cranky, so we decided to bring them back early (2 hours early). It was still fun!

Then suddenly it was our last day in Stewart Island! We were up early again to go fishing on Lo Loma. The boat we were on had two funny very kiwi fisherman running the show. we didnt use fishing poles we used these ropes/lines that had two big hooks and a big weight at the end, but we caught loads of fish! The waters here are full of blue cod so we took away about 20 fish at the end of the trip! They even fillet it all on the boat while we're fishing so we just have a bag of perfected filleted fish now! We've made fish tacos and breaded fish since and they have been delicious! After the fishing was over we went back to the hostel to warm up, shower and get our things over to the ferry.

Our next stop that night was the Catlins. The place we stayed, Penguin Paradise, was great. It was just a house with 5 rooms and we were the only ones staying there the first night! We got the whole house to ourselves with a fireplace to keep warm which was great since it was freezing! We also started working on the worlds hardest 550 piece puzzle. We barely finished the outside of it before we called it a night. The first morning we were there we went to Curio Bay which has a fossilized forest which just looks like rocks. We went the first time at about 12 oclock in the afternoon and we only saw some rocks, so we figured we try coming back again at low tide (330) to see the forest. When we went back at 330 we saw the same exact thing. Then we realized they were fossils. It was once a forest, but has since been burried over by volcanic debris. In any case we were able to walk down to the water which was really nice. Then we waited until dusk and we got to see a yellow eyed penguin waddle onto shore so that made it worth the trip. That was sort of the highlight of the day! The next day we left our nice house in the wilderness to head out of the catlins stopping at loads of waterfalls along the way - Mclean Falls, Matai Falls, and the pinnacle Purakanui Falls! They were incredible! It was also an amazing day weatherwise so it was just a perfect way to see the Catlins. It is absolutely untouched and beautiful.

Once we finished with our last waterfall we headed on our way back up the east coast to Dunedin. It's quite a hilly place! We are staying at a hostel called Elm Lodge (Its on Elm Street). Its nice enough, its a house in a nice neighborhood up a massive hill like everything else in Dunedin. We enjoyed a little of the free internet but it didn't take long to fall asleep. This morning we were up and off to the i-site here to book our two short days in Dunedin. Today we really wanted to go on the Speight's Brewery Tour and tomorrow its the Cadbury Factory. Beer and chocolate, what else do you need?? Once we had those booked we headed out to find the renowned used bookshops in town. Once we realized we were looking in the wrong place we stopped for lunch at a place in the city center that had a lunch deal on. Luke had a chicken burger with brie and I had the seafood chowder. Both were really tasty. Then we headed on to try and find the Octagon Bookshop. We finally found it and it was worth the search. It has some of the greatest treasures in there, and everything was 50% off, so I got 2 books for $5! It has classics, poetry, history books, recent books, mysteries, literally anything you could think of, but better. Once I finished making Luke wait while I read every title in the store, we headed off to browse some other bookshops before heading to our Speight's Brewery Tour. It was really a great tour. We got not only a tour of where the beer is brewed, but a little bit of history of the company and of Dunedin as well. We got unlimited tastings for a half hour as part of the tour! then headed off to a happyof tthats where we are now for a few days before we go to hour at a place called The Black Dog (which apparently has no relation to the one in MV, I asked). Tomorrow is really our last day of this whirlwind tour of the south island. I can't believe how quickly this has gone! Tomorrow evening we'll be back in Christchurch, then its up to Nelson on Thursday! Not before the Cadbury Tour of course!

April 21, 2011

Luke's Birthday!

Manapouri wasn't much of a town, but the place we stayed, Freestone Backpackers, was a destination in itself! It was by far the best hostel we have stayed in so far in New Zealand. We booked a few days ago for a double room and when we got there the owner walked us to our private cabin with our own kitchen and wood burning fire. It was an absolute dream. Once the sun set the stars were all out and the only light was that of the flashlights people carried to find the bathrooms! From our deck we had a view of the lake and mountains as well. The fire kept us warm all night and it was an incredible place to wake up for Luke's birthday!

We woke up and I cooked a delicious eggs benedict with bacon for Luke's birthday breakfast. Then we got ready to leave and packed up the car to head back into Manapouri. I surprised him with a morning row boat ride on the river which was great especially since the sun was shining nice and warm the entire time. After that we slowly made our way to Invercargill stopping for lunch back in Te Anau at The Fat Duck. Then we went down a different road than I meant to and we missed out on the caves I meant to bring Luke to for his other part of the day! but we made it to Invercargill with enough time to check into our hostel, Southern Comfort. It's a nice older house on the outside of the city center. We headed into town for a drink then to Speight's Ale House for a giant meal! Then of course back for candles and cake! We're both stuffed, but ready to wake up bright and early to get on the ferry to Stewart Island until Monday!!

April 20, 2011

It's been a really nice couple of days since we left Queenstown. First we went to Te Anau, a really small lake town. It’s about two and a half hours south west of Queenstown. We got there with a bit of time to check into our hostel, walk into town and have a wander along the main (only) street then head to the harbour to catch our 5:45 boat. We went with Real Journeys to see the Te Anau Glow Worm Caves . The boatride alone was worth the trip! Its about a half an hour boat ride to the caves and because we did the evening boat the sun was starting to set as we were crossing the lake. The sunsets we have seen in New Zealand since we left Christchurch have been the most amazing sunsets we have ever seen. The moon was out as well and it was gigantic! and full. That was really incredible. We couldn’t stop staring at it. When we first saw it we thought there was no way it could be the moon because it was way too big. I couldn't manage to get a really good picture of it, so memories are all I've got! Once we got to the cave we got off the boat and met up with our guide. He told us a little bit about the glow worms and what we should expect in the cave and off we went! The entire cave is over 6km (3.6 miles) long, but we were only going to go as far as 250 meters. We walked through the first part of the cave on these wooden bridges they have built over the water. The noise in the cave was incredible. The water was rushing through with such force that it sounded like we were standing next to a waterfall. When we looked down there were so many different levels that the water was travelling and so many crevasses that it was pushing through. Once we got to end of the footbridge we hopped into another small boat and road into complete darkness. It took a few seconds for our eyes to adjust, but then we saw all these little glowing specs all around us! They're sort of the color of fireflies but they don’t move around really. The hungrier they are the brighter they glow, so they must have been really hungry!! Then we road back and got free coffee/tea and watched a short video on the life of glow worms. They are sort of like spiders in the way that they catch their prey. They let down a sticky fishing line straight down from where they are and then they suck out the insides of the critter, no need for the rest! Then they pupate like butterflies except they turn into flies instead of beautiful butterflies. Then they die 3 days later. Once we watched that we stared at the moon a little bit more and headed back on the big boat to Te Anau.

Our hostel, Lakefront Backpackers, was right on the lake with a nice view from our window even with a little balcony. It was our first venture into dorm beds since we started this trip (we’re big timers and stay in our own rooms usually). It was a six person dorm room and it was full. The nice thing about this place was that our dorm also had a kitchen and living room area so that made for a nice evening. We hung out in the living room with two other German girls who were staying in the dorm as well. We just chatted about different places we all have been. They have done a bit more of the North Island so it was nice to hear about that. Then we were off to bed to wake up early for another adventurous day!

Tuesday we woke up early and headed to Milford Sound which is North West along the only road that goes to Milford Sound. We were told it could be quite treacherous in the winter (so much so it’s the law in the winter you must carry chains for the car) so we were very glad to be travelling to Milford before winter. It is an incredible drive from Te Anau to Milford. The road sits between giant, snow covered mountains, and water on both sides at some points. Halfway through the drive it started to rain, but we had heard that it is even better in Milford in the rains so we weren’t worried. The only thing in Milford besides a few hotels is the boat terminal. We had read in the Lonely Planet that it can look like a busy airport terminal, but we couldn’t understand that until we actually got there. A lot of the boats all leave around the same time so there are masses of people in the terminal and nearly as many buses outside the terminal waiting to pick up the next boatload that comes out. We went for one of the smaller boats, mostly because it was the cheapest, but it turned out to be a really nice journey. Because it was small we were able to see so much, we even went under one of the waterfalls on the way back into the dock. Once we were away from the busy terminal and out on the Sound (which is actually a fiord because it was formed by glaciers), it was like riding into another world. It rains here a lot, about 21 FEET a year!! But people were right about it making for an even better experience. It created this mist on the water that made it look sort of mystical. We also saw loads of bottle nose dolphins and some seals and LOADS of waterfalls that are apparently only there when it rains and 20 minutes after the rain stops they dry up, so once again thank you rain!

After we got done with the boat trip we got to our hostel, Milford Sound Lodge, to dry off. It is a really big hostel, probably because it’s the only one in Milford, and expensive because of the same reason. So we decided to stay in another dorm, this one is only 4 beds and has another couple staying. We changed into warmer clothes and relaxed in the large lounge with heaters and comfy couches. Then we were up early again to head off on a hike called the Lake Marian Hike. It turned out to be a much different day than yesterday, bright and sunny! The walk was steep but at the end we were rewarded with lake and mountain views, so it was worth it!

Now just using some free internet back in Te Anau before heading to Manapouri for the night. It's almost time for Stewart Island!!

April 18, 2011


I can’t believe how fast a week in Queenstown has gone! We showed up a little bit underwhelmed by the hostel – Bungi Backapckers. It’s kind of run down and our room was pretty small. It’s ok now that we’ve been here for the week. It’s quiet at night and we’re a short walk into the center of the city. The kitchen isn’t the best since it doesn’t have an oven or any real hobs only electric ones, and we have had some food stolen from us throughout the week which has really not been nice. We aren’t going to miss you Bungi!

As for the rest of Queenstown there have been ups and downs! The first night we were here on Monday we met up with one of Luke’s friends from home which was really nice. One good thing about our hostel was that it gave us two for one drinks at this bar called the Buffalo club! So that made for a few good nights this week! The next morning we went to the much acclaimed Fergberger, the (I think Self-proclaimed) “best burger in New Zealand“. I was really excited about it, it was basically all I could talk about since we started this trip. It in itself was something to be done in Queenstown. After all that excitement, the $15 burger and another $4.00 just for a side of fries was about as average as a burger from McDonald’s, except the burgers at McDonald’s are juicier than this. Needless to say, I wasn’t impressed. The day was saved by the afternoon when we went up to the top of the gondola looking directly over the city and Lake Wakatipu. The weather was beautiful with blue skies and not much wind up there. At the top was also a really fun luge track – kind of like little carts that you ride. The track didn’t look very impressive, but once we got on it and Luke was able to whiz past me at top speed while i took the corners a bit slower we realized how much fun this was. So we did a walking track around the top of the hill that was about a half hour, then went back and did one more luge before heading back down the hill to Queenstown. While we were up there we saw some people bungi jumping. It just confirmed that it was definitely not for us!

The next morning we were up bright and early for our hang-gliding experience. We were picked up in the town center and driven up to Coronet Peak which is about 20 minutes outside of town and up! It’s a popular ski field in the winter. It seemed to all happen so fast. We got up to the top of the mountain, they put together the hang gliders, they showed us once what to do, then we were off! One, two, three steps, a little jog, and suddenly I was horizontal and flying like a bird! It was an incredible feeling of weightlessness. We flew through the air for a while in silence just soaking in the view, the the instructor asked me if I wanted a “rollercoaster landing or a quiet landing”, so being the adrenaline junkie that I now am I said rollercoaster! So he did this thing he called an emergency stop where he pushed forward the hang glider and we dropped for a second before he moved it back into position to fly normally. We did that a few times and it was an incredible feeling, so exciting! Then we did some tight turns dropping quickly and swooping back up again all before coming in for a speedy landing on our stomachs. It was definitely an incredible experience I would recommend! That afternoon we met back up with Luke’s friend and went to the Queenstown Gardens to play Frisbee Golf. It’s a really fun game (probably more fun if you could throw a Frisbee). But the basic idea is like golf – you tee off in one place and there is a hole at the end where the Frisbee has to land in, only the whole is actually a metal pole with a chain net around it. We played that twice before it got a bit too cold to be in the park anymore.

The next day we had a lazy morning and booked a jet boat ride with Skippers Jet boats in the afternoon. Then we headed into town and booked a few more things for Te Anau and Milford Sound where we are headed tomorrow! Then we were picked up in town again by Skipper’s and headed for Skipper’s Canyon via an off-road adventure. It was about an hour ride to the canyon along unpaved roads, narrow passages and steep drops into the valley below it was an exciting and informative ride. The driver told us all about the history of the canyon during the gold rush and told a few funny jokes along the way. Then we got to the start of our boat trip, strapped on our lifejackets and away we went! We sped off doing a 360 degree turn right away turned back to take a photo of the whole lot of us, then whipped back around to head down the canyon. He drove us through tiny gaps between rocks and drifted passed cliff edges that looked impassable. Once we got back there was one more boat to wait for before we got back on the bus, so we watched them speed in and do a spin to make it into the loading area, except he missed! So the boat drifted of some rocks and then got stuck! It was a sight to see. The bus driver took off his socks and shoes and proceeded to pull the boat into shore. If that wasn’t enough comedy, he then realized it wasn’t close enough to keep people from getting their feet wet, so he gave a piggy-back ride to every passenger from the boat to the shore. If that’s not service I don’t know what is!

The next day we decided to rent kayaks for a little while. We headed out onto Lake Wakatipu to enjoy the sun and paddle away for an hour. Unfortunately, as a kayak we weren’t allowed to go to the middle of the lake because there are too many other boats, so we paddled along the edges near the gardens among some big boats that were docked to buoys just enjoying the scenery around us! I definitely felt the burn the next day in my arms!

On Saturday we were suffering slightly from too much fun on Friday night so we had a quiet morning before packing a lunch and heading out for what would be a VERY challenging hike. It was called Queenstown Hill Walkway. This was more like a mountain than a hill, but we hoofed it up to the top where I forgot to take pictures, but we did get some equally as nice photos from other areas on the hike! On the way down we took a more leisurely pace and even stopped near the bottom to read for a little bit with a beautiful view of Queenstown in front of us.

Sunday, our last full day in Queenstown, we used as a day to figure out what was ahead of us, packing our bags back up, and making lists. We did manage to get into town and do a walk around the Queenstown Gardens and out towards the other end of the bay, but the wind stopped us from going very far. It’s definitely starting to feel like fall now, although Luke is still in shorts. We headed back into town and went into a Cafe – I had a coffee and Luke had a really delicious homemade. hot chocolate. We did one last tour of the shops in Queenstown for the day and headed back up to our hostel for our last night (which we’re not that sad about)!

Te Anau here we come!

April 12, 2011

Where to begin?

We have done so much in the last week since I wrote I don't even know where to begin! Franz Josef was beautiful. We woke up bright and early and headed over to where we were going to start our hike. They took us by bus to the start of the hike where we trecked through the rainforest for a few minutes before coming out into a wide open valley. Then there it was, the Franz Josef Glacier! It looked really close, but our guide told us we were still about 45 minutes away from the face of the glacier. So on we went in our massive hiking boots, with our many layers of clothes packed away ready to get on the ice. Just before we got to the ice we learned how to put on our crampons - the ice picks that you wear on the bottom of your boots to grip the ice. Once those were on, off we went for our full day hike onto the glacier. It was challenging, but amazing. We slipped through tiny crevaces, climbed up steps that were made moments before by our guide, and climbed up using ropes and some more handmade steps. It was absolutely beautiful. The views from the top, the hues of blue in the ice, and the relief my legs felt once we finally made it back on the bus made the whole day worthwhile. To top off a great day we got free entry to the glacier hot pools to relax our tired legs before bed. The next morning we were up and off again. Next stop, Wanaka. Our first day in Wanaka we relaxed in the morning and spent the afternoon at a place called Puzzling World. Our entry included the Illusions Room and an outdoor maze. The illusions room had everything from hollograms to rooms that tricked your eye into thinking some faces were following you. There was even a room that from far away looked like a normal room, but once you were inside of it you realised that there were two very different sides, one making even me look like a giant! the other side making me look even smaller than I really am! The next day stands out as one of the best days of this trip so far, and thats skydiving! We booked it in the morning and had a few hours to think about what we were going to be doing that afternoon. It was the best experience I have ever had. Freefalling at 120mph then opening the parachute and there was absolute silence to admire the mountains covered in snow, the lakes, and the clear blue skies. There are no words to explain this experience, so I will just leave it at that! The next day we decided to hire bikes from our hostel and hit the trail. Neither of us have ever done a real mountain biking trail. It was both challenging and rewarding. There were times when we got frustrated because we were pushing the bikes up the mountain, and sometimes in my case, pushing them down. Despite that, the feeling of making it to the top of a steep hill while remaining ON the bike was a great feeling of accomplishment. 5 hours later I was very happy to see the car, but on the bike ride we saw some more amazing views. New Zealand has yet to disappoint. There is always some beautiful lake, mountain or sea to see! After we slept soundly that night, we spent our last full day in Wanaka at the cinema. This is no ordinary movie theater, this was an experience. You go into the cafe to get your ticket, then walk through these doors to the one theater room. It is filled with big comfy couches, some movie theater seats in the back, and even a car! We opted for the middle of the middle, a nice soft couch. There is an intermission which opens the doors of the theater to the smell of fresh out of the oven cookies. We got chocolate chip and they were divine. As was the homemade ice cream - I had cinnamon honey and luke had Bailey's white chocolate, Yum! Now we are in Queenstown deciding what to do for the week! Sorry no photos, more to come at some point.

April 04, 2011

On the Road!

We did it! We're already on day 3 of the travels! It seems to be a whirlwind already so I can't imagine that once its over it will have felt like a month! We started off heading straight west to Wesport - the biggest city on the Coast. We did a hike called the Cape Fowlwind Walkway that ended at a seal colony. We managed to start the trip on a positive note weather wise as well with the sun shining down on us for the hike and showing the beauty of the Tasman Sea.

Once we finished the walk we headed further down south to stay in Punakaiki for the night. The place we stayed was called the Te Nikau Retreat, and a retreat it was. Our cabin was in the middle of the forest, flashlight and candles required. We trecked through the rainforest to find our tent shaped wooden cabin abtly named the Stargazer for its glass roof. Once we settled in for the night it seemed as though the Stargazer was going to have been in vain because the clouds were not going anywhere, but right before we were about to head to sleep the sky opened up. We quickly blew out all the candles and layed down to look up at the stars. It was an incredible experience laying in the warmth of the cabin being able to see the sky in all its glory. One recommendation to the retreat - perhaps they should cut down the massive branch the hangs over the stargazer?

Day two we woke up in our now cold cabin and went for a morning walk along the (rocky) beach to see some more of the aggressive Tasman Sea. It is a beautiful way to wake up that's for sure! After we headed back we had showers, had some breakfast and checked out to go see the Pancakse Rocks and Blowholes. The pancake rocks are named that because they literally look like big tall stacks of pancakes due to the coastal erosion from the sea (also called stylobedding) giving it a layered look. The blowholes are due to the force of the Sea crashing into them pushing the water back out through the small holes.

Once we said goodbye to Punakaiki we continued down the west coast road along the Tasman Sea to Greymouth. There's not much in Greymouth - especially on a Sunday - besides the Monteith's Brewery tour, but we had a bit of time to burn. We had some lunch near a park and waited until our tour at two. The tour was very educational. We had done a tour of a small brewery in England, but Monteith's is a much larger brewer, so we were able to see a bit more technology at work. After the tour we got a taste of all 8 brews they currently have available. Yum!

That's all for now, its getting dark and we are headed down the Franz Josef for two days! I'll write more about Hokitika when I get internet again!