New Zealand: South Island

So about that ferry, the Interislander, they have a slogan: “a journey to remember” or something. We doubt we’ll indeed ever forget how we got tossed around that boat amidst the other ice-cube sucking suckers (alleviates sea-sickness?) & their stomach contents for 4+ hours. Swells reached 6m in height, and it had been very close or the ship would not have sailed.
Once back on solid ground, we picked up a fabulous new Holden Barina (a discontinued model for a reason). This one was blue, 10y older and crappier than the one on North Island. The day’s destination was Marahau, the entrance to the Abel Tasman National Park. We took it easy on the 3h route though, enjoying the scenery and a fabulous coffee in Nelson.

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Wine fields between Picton & Nelson

So what did we do in Abel Tasman? Same as most: rent a sea kayak and discover the park:

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Proper kayak with rudder & splash guards
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Pretty beaches & birds galore!

 

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Serene view of Split Apple Rock right before sh*t hit the fan: the struggle against waves & current back to Marahau

The 20 or-so-degree weather was a real treat after the cold, barren highlands up North. We saw stingrays shooting below, as well as plenty of fur seals & bird-life (sadly no penguins like Jenk’s last time there).

The day after, that kayak would have served us better than our Barina in getting us to Fox glacier safely. We’d never seen that much rain – period. A day best forgotten to be honest, with a few nasty traffic situations. There were some fun moments though: seeing Weka’s (a lesser well-know flightless bird), waterfalls everywhere, and making a few stops on the spectacular West-Coast:

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Massive waves
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Pancake Rocks
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Jos painting half her pants black 🙂

One warning: do not linger in or near Pancake Rocks bathrooms: there are blood-sucking sand-flies everywhere!

After our first night in Fox Glacier, it was finally time for our heli-hike. Drum-roll please… it got cancelled due to terrible weather 😦 After getting a full refund, we went for some hiking around or on Fox or Franz Josef glacier ourselves. In the end however, we got a little dissuaded by hail torrents, waterfalls being blown towards the sky and general existential misery. So Jos worked on the blog & Jenk retreated to the hot tub & sauna.

We had another shot at seeing the glacier the next day:

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Fox Glacier

That same day, we were set for Queenstown already, enjoying all sorts of prettiness along the way:

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A European’s dream beach: perfect skipping stones & no people
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A goat – haha jk lol it’s a waterfall
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Blue pools (bit greener than usual due to recent rain)
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Native New-Zealanders in their natural habitat
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Lake Wanaka

We decided on a 4 chill night mini-break in Queenstown: hiked a bit, slept well, did laundry, prepped for a Great Walk & jumped off a 134m cliff:

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Nevis Bungy, NZ’s highest at 134m
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8+ second free fall incoming
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Frisbee golf in the Q’town Gardens
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High above Queenstown
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Sick yoga pose bruh (Major difference between now and Jenks last time: too many fake yoga people with drones…)

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Fully recharged, the time had come to start the Routeburn Track – a 3-day tramping route that crosses from near Glenorchy into the sounds proper. Accommodations & facilities were beyond basic, so we had to bring our own sleeping bags, cooking utensils, and all food with us. This is what that looks like:

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The pack was heavy, the nights cold, and the first night we were in a room with someone who sounded like the competition between a flock of woodpeckers & a chainsaw. The spectacular surroundings more than made up for it though:

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Cold!!!

We got a very moving ranger talk at the hut in the background here. He explained why the trail was so quiet & chatter-free, despite NZ originally being full of native birds. The evil-doers were of course us humans: by introducing stoats, possums & weasels to hunt the rabbits (which we also introduced) we damned the birdlife. Given that we can no longer trap & snare the humans that did this in the late 1800s, the way to protect and conserve is by predator control. This particular ranger alone had raised enough money from hikers to put 500+ traps throughout the valley – and the ecosystem is slowly recovering. Just wow.

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Bunks at MacKenzie Hut

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Given that the start and finish of the trail were at least a 3h drive apart, we’d booked a car relocation service – which worked splendidly. When we got down a bit past mid-day on the third day, our mighty Barina was waiting there. It took us 1.5h to get to Milford Sound, a surreal drive through glacier valleys & fjords:

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Mighty Kea overlooking valley
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The Chasm
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Mighty Kea looking for food or car parts to destroy

We’d seen the Kea from afar on the Routeburn track already, but were glad we still got a little encounter with them in the fjord lands. This is the world’s only alpine parrot and allegedly tied for smartest bird on the planet too.

We ended up doing a short cruise in Milford Sound, and it was everything we’d hoped for and more. Well first of all, it did not rain – which is rare. Secondly we saw the world’s rarest penguins – the Fiordland Crested Penguin – of which only around 2000 are alive today. Also: more fur seals and waterfalls of course:

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1600m peak straight out of the water
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Forgot zoom lens, but they’re there: the rare penguins

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Fur seals

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We drove down to Te Anau that night, and back up to Queenstown Airport the following day. The time had come to leave New Zealand and the Pacific behind.

Next stop: Buenos Aires!!

One thought on “New Zealand: South Island

  1. Thanks. Another great read. We are heading down to the South Island in 2019 in our caravan so all very interesting. Sorry about the rain on the West Coast but it’s known for that and the large blood sucking sandflies. Take your insect repellent. C

    Like

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