16.03.2014 - 21.03.2014 15 °C
So we're now in New Zealand! Our flight from Fiji landed us in Christchurch in New Zealand's South Island, where we were met with RAIN - and you don't know how pleased we were! After four months of constant heat, we actually welcomed some colder climes.
The city of Christchurch itself is still going through extensive re-generation and re-building programmes following the huge earthquake it suffered back in 2011. Much of the city is still in tatters, whilst other areas are all shiny and new.
A part of the city where the effects of the earthquake are still obvious.
In all, it was interesting walking around and seeing how the earthquake has affected Christchurch city, and how they've adapted to the ongoing building works. The city centre has a lovely street whereby the shops, cafes and restaurants have been constructed using huge carriage freights. I really like the concept behind this, as not only does it show a resourcefulness, it also reminds people of the earthquake but in a positive way, rather than trying to create a completely new city where no signs of the city's history remains.
The city cathedral is still partially standing and as they are yet to decide what to do with it, It's much the same as it was when the earthquake destroyed it. I like that they've retained it as a tourist attraction, where it's history can still be enjoyed rather than just tearing it down or renovating it.
After stopping at The Warehouse (a huge shop that sells everything!) to purchase all of our camping supplies, we left Christchurch for Lake Tekapo. It was raining but spirits were high... We had our own tent, food in abundance (be it cup noodles and various tinned delights) and lots of exciting plans!!
We arrived in Lake Tekapo early evening, and chose a great campsite right by the lake. After setting up the tent (in the rain, and impending dark), we enjoyed a peppered steak hotpot (tinned, yet surprisingly good!) and embarked on our first night in the tent.
The following morning we did a short walk around part of the huge lake and saw the beautiful Church of the Good Shepherd. The lake's waters are so clear and reflect the surrounding mountainous landscape beautifully. Definitely a great way to start our roadtrip!
Later that day, we travelled on to Lake Pukaki. All I can say is; wow! We thought Tekapo was stunning, but Pukaki bought a whole new meaning to the word. With crystal, bright blue waters and a backdrop of the breath-taking Mount Cook it was, and is, the most awe inspiring view I've ever seen. It may sound ridiculous, but it actually bought me to tears. I felt so lucky to be in such an amazing place and seeing such natural, untouched beauty. We were also very lucky with the weather, as if it had been cloudy we wouldn't have been graced with Mount Cook's presence.
We drove right to the top of the lake, up to where Mount Cook village is situated. It's a tiny village with serve-yourself petrol pumps, a small school, smatterings of motels and impressive mountain surroundings.
The scenery on our drive up to Mount Cook village.
Later that afternoon, we travelled down towards the South Island's east coast, to a small town called Oamaru - home to the Blue Penguin and the Yellow Eyed Penguin (which is the rarest of the penguin breed). Upon arriving we made our way straight to Oamaru's Bushy Beach where the precious penguins are often sighted. Although we arrived in prime viewing time (from 6:30pm) we weren't lucky enough to spot any. Us, along with the thirty or so other hopeful tourists, were very disappointed, but I guess when viewing animals in their natural habitat you need to be prepared for a long often fruitless wait. Our luck wasn't all out though as the following morning we travelled a small way down the coast to Moeraki Point where we spotted not only tons of various seal species but several Yellow Eyed Penguins.
They were so cute waddling around, and it was amazing watching them in their natural habitat. The seals were great too; the pups were playing in the water with their lazy mums sleeping along the rocks and grassy headlands.
We got so close to some of them, and unlike the day before where there were loads of other people, it was just Ben and I with front row seats. This is definitely my favourite day of the trip, bar none. The specialness of seeing the animals in their habitats, combined with New Zealands fantastic coastal scenery makes it a day I'll never forget.
Whilst in Moeraki we also visited the Moeraki Boulders, which are a group of huge rocks planted along a strip of beach. They aren't a man-made creation, so a bit like our Stonehenge, they're a bit of a wonder. They make for very impressive scenery, and are definitely worth a quick stop.
After our fantastic morning in Moeraki, we travelled further down the coast to Dunedin and The Otago Peninsula. Dunedin is a fairly small city and not worth a stop in itself, but is worth it to travel through to The Otago Peninsula, which is huuuuuge and actually more like an island. We drove around and then up through the top of the peninsula. The out-going drive took us along the pretty coast, and the return drive gave us stunning mountain and hill views.
Following our drive around The Otago Peninsula, we left the coast and travelled the same day through to Te Anau, situated in the Fiordland National Park. This drive took us through stunning middle earth-esque scenery.
At every moment, New Zealand's scenery is there to stun and amaze. This was at The Mirror Lakes, on the way to Fiordland. Absolutely beautiful.
Te Anau is said to be the best tramping location in the world. So we saw it only fit to get in a little walk whilst there. We chose to do some of The Kepler Track's route (which is one of New Zealand's 'Great Walks'). In all, the track takes around five days to complete but we chose just a three hour return section encompassing parts of the park used to film some scenes in The Lord of The Rings films. It took us through beautiful, rich-green forestry and gave us gorgeous river views.
The track finished at Lake Manapouri's Shallow Bay, where we were met with a fantastic mountain backdrop. If you complete the entire Kepler Track, you'll hike through some of these mountains.
We left Te Anau early afternoon to travel on through to Milford Sound. This has got to be the scariest road I've ever driven (well, been a passenger to - as Ben was the lucky driver!) It meandered through dizzyingly high mountain-sides, and actually through a mountain too! The tunnel stretches over 1km in length and took over 40 years to construct! It felt never-ending, and whilst driving through it I couldn't help but think how much mountain was above us!
Upon arriving in Milford Sound we set up camp for the night - this was probably our most 'authentic' setting, with forestry surrounding us and a view of the magnificent glacial peaks to wake up to.
The following morning we took a boat cruise up the Sound, or Fiord. We were really glad we were there to do the first morning cruise of the day as the water was so calm and pond-like and the morning sun cast perfect reflections from the huge mountain peaks onto the water.
Milford Sound is absolutely stunning, and a definite highlight. Mitre Peak, the highest of the peaks, towers 1692m from the water, and finishes that deep below the water too! It's hard to believe the stunning Fiord was formed by glaciers thousands of years ago. The glaciers carved out the inlet that was then filled by the sea upon the glaciers retreat. Nature at it's most amazing!
Lady Bowen Falls - the highest of Milford Sound's waterfalls at 162m.
So all of this, and we're just six days in! It's safe to say New Zealand is one of, if not the, best country of our trip in terms of scenery at least - we love how varied its landscapes are, and how much you can see with just a relatively short amount of driving. The scenery is like nothing we've seen before, and the country as a whole feels so untouched. We're excited to discover what other delights this fantastic country has to offer.