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.
So what did we do in Abel Tasman? Same as most: rent a sea kayak and discover the park:
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:
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:
That same day, we were set for Queenstown already, enjoying all sorts of prettiness along the way:
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:
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:
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:
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.
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:
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:
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!!