21.03.2014 - 30.03.2014 18 °C
After an amazing 6 days to the start of our New Zealand camping roadtrip, we left the spectacular Milford Sound and drove the four hours up to Queenstown. Both Ben and I really loved Queenstown - it's hard not to with its fantastic mountain backdrop, lakeside location and added to that a sense of adrenalin fuelled excitement and pretty cobble-stone streets lined with fantastic shops and markets. We spent two nights in Queenstown, exploring the town and visiting the market. Set right alongside Lake Wakatipu, it has to be the nicest location of any of the towns or cities we've visited. The market had excellent stalls, all of which sold beautiful items, from handmade New Zealand stone jewellery, to beautiful Merino wool scarves. If only we had just a bit more space in our backpacks!
Unlike most people who visit Queenstown, I didn't succumb to the temptation of adrenalin fuelled action! There's bungee jumps, paragliding, white water rafting and skydiving to choose from, but preferring to keep my two feet on the ground whenever possible none of those were really for me. Ben would have loved to, but as he had his sights set on doing some elsewhere in New Zealand, resisted. So instead, we both indulged in Queenstown's infamous Fergburger for the most delicious burger experience!!
An infamous Fergburger - almost as big as my head! It was a lovely treat after a week of cup noodles and tinned hotpots!
After leaving Queenstown, we made a short stop in Arrowtown, which was the home to the first Chinese settlement during New Zealand's Gold Rush.
It's also home to the quaintest little town, with sweet old-fashioned shops.
We then drove through to Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers, stopping at some beautiful scenery along the way.
We drove through Lake Hawea - one of the most beautiful lakes we saw in New Zealand. So blue!
As well as Lake Wanaka, which gives great views of Mount Aspiring.
We arrived at the glaciers in time to take a short walk to the face of Fox Glacier. The walk took us through a stunning mountainous gorge, with the glacier at the end. It was amazing to see the glacier at such close proximity, the height and mass of it slightly overwhelming.
The scenery on the walk to the face of Fox Glacier.
Following our walk to Fox Glacier, we drove the 20km further up the road to Franz Josef Glacier and camped there the night. The following day we walked to the face of Franz Josef Glacier, which again was amazing to see. Although disappointingly there was quite a lot of cloud clover by the time we'd walked the several kilometres to the face of the glacier.
The walk to the glacier was really spectacular though, with beautiful waterfalls and gorges.
Fox Glacier has an amazing forest, known as the Hobbit Forest - at night time it's THE place to go to see New Zealand's famous glowworms. It felt like a scene from a murder film; walking through dense forestry in the dark of night with nothing but a pathetic torch. But it was so worth it - we turned a corner and an entire wall was covered with the little specs of light. It was like looking up into a perfectly clear night sky. Every corner we turned, there were hundreds of 'stars' lighting the trees and rocks. Unfortunately, this isn't something I could photograph so you'll just have to go and experience it for yourself!
Fox Glacier is also home to Lake Matheson - known as the reflecting lake of Mount Cook. Disappointingly, there was quite a lot of cloud cover when we visited so we didn't get the typical scenery of the mountain reflecting off the lake entirely, but it was still really pretty with it's reflective waters and surrounding woods.
Mount Cook at sunset.
In all, we spent three nights at Fox and Franz Josef glaciers - we had to stick around for perfect weather conditions so that Ben could do a skydive!
We'd been told the glaciers are the second best place in the world to do one (second only to Mount Everest!) so Ben had set his sights on doing one whilst we were there. He finally got the opportunity to do one and said it was the best thing he has done!! I watched firmly from the ground, having kittens the entire time! Luckily, he made it back down in one piece!!
We left the glaciers on day 11, and travelled on up through the South Island's west coast, seeing some of the most breathtaking wild beaches along the way. Hokitika, a quaint arty town, along the West coast, is particularly well known for it's beautiful beach.
We stopped at the Punakaiki 'Pancake' rocks, which was well worth the short stop. The sea along this part of the west coast is so powerful, it's definitely not ideal for a swim; especially with all the huge rock formations, that take an endless battering from the sea's crashing waves.
It's said this stretch of road along the West coast is one of the best drives in the world - and we could definitely see why. I think most of the 'best drives' must be in New Zealand, as every day we were awed by the scenery we drove through.
Our aim for this day's drive was to make it right to the Abel Tasman National Park, but as the scenery along the way was so beautiful, and we found ourselves making lots of little stops, we only made it as far as a small town called Murchison. We found a small campsite/farm to stay the night on (waking up to the sound of Emus was rather strange!), and packed up early the following morning for our journey up to Abel Tasman.
Day 12, we drove the few hours up to Abel Tasman and then up on through to Golden Bay. We found a decent campsite, and then planned our trip for the following day. We wanted to experience the Abel Tasman National Park, but as I was over coming a horrible cold, didn't want to do a trek. We therefore chose a lovely boat cruise along the coastline of the NP, spotting seals along the way.
The NP is a beautiful woodland, along the coastline of the Abel Tasman sea, parts of which are a Marine National Park itself. The waters are really blue, and abundant with lots of fish species. Sometimes, people are lucky enough to spot Dolphins! I did keep my eye out, but unfortunately they didn't make an appearance for us.
Although Abel Tasman is a beautiful part of the country, as we'd seen similar scenery in both Thailand and Fiji it wasn't as impressive as we'd both imagined.
Golden Bay, where we were camped, was really beautiful, with wild beaches. We visited one beach that was particularly stunning, which at low tide has a Durdle Door type rock formation. The beach stretches for miles, and with it's huge sandy dunes felt a little like a desert! Whilst Ben and I were there it didn't have another soul on it.
This is just another example of New Zealand's stunning, dramatic scenery and tantamount to the variety of landscapes this one country has on offer.
After leaving Golden Bay and Abel Tasman, we made our way to Picton, where the following day we were to catch our ferry over to Wellington on the North Island. I was absolutely dreading the ferry crossing, after my awful seasickness in Fiji and because I'd heard the Cook Strait crossing can be one of the worse ferry crossing in the world. I spent the entire night fretting about it, convincing myself the ferry would capsize or worse, I would spend the whole three hours loosing the contents of my breakfast. In fact, I didn't eat anything the entire day prior to the journey to ensure that wouldn't happen! I was pleasantly surprised though as luck was on our side and the crossing was very calm - I even managed a steak pie (after starving myself I was absolutely ravished!) The scenery leaving Picton, through the Marlborough Sound, was beautiful and had the waters been a little choppy, it would have been an excellent distraction. As it was, the water was so calm we really got to enjoy the sights.
So Day 15, we left the stunning sights of the South Island behind for New Zealand's North Island. After the amazing two weeks we'd had, we just hoped the North Island could live up to the high expectations set by the South Island!