04.02.2017 - 16.02.2017 28 °C
Before we begin this episode, a short update on recent sports results: In the “Spot the Spaceship” cup, it is currently 16 against 15 points to the advantage of Michael, after Isabella made a great comeback in the last weeks. Now that it has become clear that Spaceships are not only driving around in New Zealand but also in Australia, the match is going into extra time and maybe, penalties
But back to business now, telling you all what we’ve been up to! Things have been moving so fast that it takes some digging in our memory to get everything clear again. Here it goes.
From Punakaiki we travelled further down the west coast. Even though New Zealand (like most countries) is now very much “explored”, there are still things reminding you that you are in fact in a very remote region. Mobile phone reception & internet access can be unavailable within a 100km radius, highways have one-way bridges and some towns aren’t even connected to the national power grid. Without any distractions we had a beautiful ride passing places such as Franz Josef, Mt. Aspiring National Park, Lakes Wanaka & Hawea on our way to Queenstown.
After two days full of bus travel, Queenstown saw fit to give us a day of… rain. Which wasn’t so bad as we had quite some planning, washing, administration and grocery shopping to catch up on. That’s right folks, it’s not just fun and games here but hard work! Feeling like we had accomplished much that day, we rewarded ourselves with a legendary Fergburger for dinner (find the menu here. No drooling!). An insider trick from hostel manager Sally allowed us to skip the incredibly long line before the restaurant. Owwww yeahhh! Six years after Michael’s first review – it’s still the best burger. Isabella agrees
The weather cleared up nicely in the next few days and it felt good to stay in the same place for a while. Queenstown has lots to offer and is known for extreme activities such as bungy jumping, skydiving, powerboating, etc. etc. etc. On the other hand it is also located in one of the most beautiful places imaginable and is in fact one big Lord of the Rings film set. On the shore of a lake, it lies between the snow covered peaks of Fjordland National Park on the one side, and the Remarkables mountain range on the other.
To fully appreciate this we spent a day climbing up and down the slopes of the 1748m high Ben Lomond mountain. Our hard work to get to the summit was rewarded with blue skies and a 360 degrees view of Queenstown and all it’s surroundings. It was made even better by a group of beautiful green/red alpine parrots called “Kea’s” joining us up there. Besides being interested in eating our lunch, Kea’s are also known for their love of rubber car tires and wind wipers.
Another early morning followed when we made our way to the bus station where our Orange Bus left for a daytrip to Milford sound. We were not really looking forward to the 4 hours drive (one way!) and all the tourists, but really wanted to see it.t Since we walked off our ass the day before, a bit of sitting around feels ok today. With several stops for scenic pictures and funny remarks from our driver Cowboy, we arrived around lunchtime to jump on our cruise ship. It was a lovely day, blue sky and almost no wind! The chances of a sunny day at Milford are 16% we learned, so I think we can consider ourselves lucky Even another 4 hours in the bus couldn’t ruin our feeling of total happiness!
With the end of our New Zealand round-trip slowly coming in sight, we arranged to “relocate” a rental car from Queenstown to Christchurch. Upside? You only pay $1 per day + petrol. Downside? You only have 2 days to get there. The rental car in question turned out to be a very big 4WD Toyota Highlander (Nice!) which we named Bert. We decided to take a “short” detour and visit the city of Dunedin for one night. Besides the huge attraction of the original Speights brewery, the Otago peninsula nearby has the only mainland colony of Albatross birds in the world.
What a beautiful sight to see these majestic birds as they glide on the wind, even more so because they are only able to lift off when there is enough. They are too heavy to do it by themselves. Once in the air though, they are able to fly up to an incredible 1000km per day! The next day to Christchurch we used the flexibility of our car to make stops along the East coast to climb on the Moeraki boulders and chill out with the fur seals on Shag Point. Neil the Seal says hi to all of you! We handed in the car at Christchurch airport and caught a hitchhike back to the city with a single mom taxi driver that had just clocked out from her night shift. Kiwi’s are such friendly people!
We were planning to visit Kaikoura on our last days in New Zealand, however due to the recent earthquake getting there turned out to be more difficult than expected. As a great alternative we decided to visit the little town of Akaroa on Banks peninsula close by. The remnants of old volcanoes all around, the town has a beautiful natural harbor which has lots of resident… Hector dolphins!!
So after the Bay of Islands we planned a second try for swimming with dolphins, this time on a small boat with only 12 people. We saw lots of dolphins and yes, we did also swim with them! :D It was a short but absolute unique experience. Thank you Kathi, it was just awesome! <3 We also saw lots of blue penguins, a yellow-eyed penguin and of course fur seals. What a wonderful day!
We enjoyed the sun and waterside in Akaroa before it was time to head back to Christchurch and our flight out of New Zealand. In the bus back more and more clouds were forming, though it had been a completely blue day before. Even though Akaroa is only around 50km away, we almost missed the news that several bushfires had broken out near Christchurch the day before. Just 10km from the city center, the firefighters had problems containing it due to strong and changing winds. Quite scary so close by. During the next day the firefighters gained the upper hand on the fires, but several homes were destroyed and one firefighter lost his life.
Before we had to leave for the airport we spent our day in Christchurch doing a little scavenger hunt prepared by the hostel we were staying. The goal was to get to know the “new” Christchurch from after the 2011 earthquake, which has changed it drastically. Our personal highlights were the container mall (first temporary, now there to stay) and the real life video game on the side of the street. Lots of creativity came from the destruction in the end!
Now off to the airport we go, time to say goodbye to New Zealand and hello to Australia! Or… “the West Island” as New Zealanders like to call it
Isabella & Michael