8.2.17 – 8.3.17
From many many people we heard that the South Island of New Zealand is nicer, which is why we planned more time for this part of NZ. We started in Nelson, known as the sunshine city where we strolled along the center and planned our hike in the Abel Tasman National Park for tomorrow.
The following day we drove straight to our water taxi pick up point, because the hike would take us along the tropical North coast of the park. To be fair, it was more a comfortable walk than a hike (no mountains to climb, no rocks to slip on and break the neck ;)), but in total we walked 25km this day, passing beautiful bays, waterfalls and cool forest paths.
We returned to the car and drove an hour to the next campground – 1 hour and we passed 3 cars, saw 6754 cows and sheep, otherwise nature and us. 🙂 That’s what everyone was talking about when describing this island as deserted…it got even lonelier when we ended up in our camp for the night (which was more a picknick area than a camp), and except for one more car no one but us was there. 😀 Oh, I forgot: of course our enemies awaited us & our blood…these damned sandflies.
For our next hike we planned on doing the Mount Robert Circuit, a nice day trek in the Nelson National Park. The drive to the parking was spectacular already: Lake Rotoiti begun to awake, covered in morning mist, surrounded by mountains….magical! 🙂 The path led us through a forest part, then in a zigzag line up to the summit where we enjoyed a great view and a special moment…;)
The West Coast was our next destination, where we saw the Pancake rocks and a lot of rain…you can only imagine how happy we were having a camper van we slept in and not a tent in a cold and rainy night. 😉 But the weather seemed to get better the next days, which was crucial for our next adventure: a skydive at Fox Glacier, OMG! But first we stopped at Franz Josef Glacier, where we did a challenging day trek (Mount Robert Track) to the glacier view point, which was amazing to see. We got so close to actually see the people who did a hike on the ice! Returning to our camp we barely find a free spot because obviously, this is the only free campground around Franz Josef and so everyone tries to get a spot here…although it’s basically only a gravel pit 😀
No way back…nervousness…excitement…fear….I’m-gonna-shit-in-my-pants-feeling….this basically sums up what we went through before our jump out of an airplane in 3.900m (13.000ft). The scenery however seemed already perfect from the ground – at Fox Glacier, we were surrounded by green forests and snowy mountains…we could only imagine what it looks like from above! But first we need to get some suits, goggles and a helmet. „When I crash on the ground the helmet would probably crash with me …“ we thought. Our skydive instructors tried to do some smalltalk with us, but at some point we were so nervous that we just didn’t wanna talk (Jakub) or talked to much (Ellen). The worst part was the waiting for the jump…the first groups returned, grinning and full of adrenaline and finally it was our call. In the tiny airplane we fit 6 people in total, 3 jumpers and 3 instructors. Full speed we started off the ground and the view was really cool. But also, there was no way back anymore…Jakub needed to get out first and in a second he was out of the plane, oh god!! Then Ellen followed, legs already out, hanging like a baby on her instructor and – FALLING FALLING FALLING 🙂 Everything happened so fast, air pressed in our faces making it hard to breathe, but the view was spectacular – on the one side the snowy mountains and glaciers, in the middle green grass and forest, on the other side coastline beaches. Man, New Zealand indeed has everything to offer! Finally, oír instructors pulled the parachute and we glided slowly down to earth, just happy that we survived and saw this beautiful spot on earth from high above 😉 Our reactions differed a lot after the jump – Jakub would immediately do it again whereas Ellen could imagine to comfortably glide with a parachute, but not jump anymore. 😀 But we wanted to to try new things and this was definitely an experience we would never forget!
Pumped with adrenalin we drove to Lake Matheson close by to cool down a little bit and indeed found ourselves in a group of retired older people, slowly walking around the mirror lake. 😉 We then decided to drive to Wanaka and camped on a spot close to Lake Wanaka, where we enjoyed a chilly bath in the lake. What a day!
To get a birds view on Wanaka, our plan for the day was to hike the Roys Peak Track – indeed, within the dirt 10 minutes the view was wonderful and we saw beautiful summits. It was however very hot this day and additionally, the level of fitness was indicated as „easy“ – what the heck was easy on this hike?! It went steeply uphill for like 4 hours! 🙂 Anyway, afterthis trap we treated ourselves with coffee and apple cake, mmmh.
Queenstown was the next place to be, where we filled our grocery boxes and our tank. The city itself was, let’s say, a touristic spoken well established and developed city…to be honest, it was packed with tourists! 😉 And sadly, the library was very not well developed for tourists: Internet restricted to 30min, no charging options for laptops, bye bye bye. Our luck was that the next campspot, which was free, had free WiFi from the library next doors. 🙂
The next days we wanna spend in the very south to discover Milford Sound! Read more about this natural attraction here:
Bounded by steep cliffs and dense rainforest, Milford Sound is by far the best known of all of the fiords in New Zealand, and the only one that can be accessed by road. Rain or shine, Milford Sound continues to captivate even the most experienced traveller. At the pinnacle of Milford Sound is the iconic Mitre Peak – standing a proud 1,692 metres above sea level, it is certainly an impressive sight to behold. It is approximately 16km from the head of the fiord to the open sea, which means visitors can comfortably travel the length of the fiord to open ocean and return on one of the many cruise options.
Milford Sound History & Legend
Māori are believed to have discovered Milford Sound more than 1,000 years ago, returning seasonally to the fiord to collect precious pounamu (also known as greenstone or jade). These treks from the east used traditional pathways across passes such as MacKinnon Pass on the Milford Track. In Māori legend, Milford Sound was formed by Tu-te-raki-whanoa, an atua (godly figure) who shaped the Fiordland coast. Chanting a powerful karakia (prayer), he carved the towering rock walls with his adze.
The Māori name for Milford Sound, Piopiotahi, refers to the piopio, a long-extinct native bird said to have flown here in mourning at the death of legendary hero Maui. In 1912 European settler John Grono landed there and named it Milford Sound, after Milford Haven in Wales. Tales of the region’s untouched beauty began to spread – British writer Rudyard Kipling declared it ‘the eighth wonder of the world’. Today Milford Sound is New Zealand’s most famous attraction and frequently tops lists of the world’s most beautiful places [http://www.milford-sound.co.nz/about-milford-sound/%5D.
In Te Anau, the basis for trips to Milford Sound we retrieved a brochure and saw for the first time how huge the area is. The plan was to drive along the highway to the end point Milford and do one of the countless walks and hikes along the route. We started our drive around noon, stunned by this vast environment we saw. During a short break close to a river (seriously, all the rivers in NZ are cristal clear – how is that possible…) we had a nice chat with an elderly couple from Canada. Funnily, they asked us how we had managed to be still together after such a long time of travelling, because they had retired recently and tried to get along with each other while being together 24/7. 😀
We then decided to go all the way to Milford already today. No problem for our Aby…secretly she used to be a race car we assume. 😉 In the afternoon we arrived at the end of the road and could have not picked a better time – all the tourist buses left and we had this breathtaking view almost for ourselves. Again, a magical moment. And we met the very curious Kea parrot, the only alpine parrot in the world, biting plastic parts off our car. 🙂 We ended our stay in the South West of NZ the next day with a hike to the Key Summit, surrounded by huge mountains and enjoyed the great weather.
Further along the South East Coast, we stopped at the Curio Bay where we saw the tiny Héctor Dolphins, swimming very close to the shore and then head to Dunedin, named after the Scottish capital and the 2nd largest city in South NZ. A walk through the city revealed beautiful old buildings and a nice arranged university area. Afterwards, the Otago Peninsula is our next goal – we met up with Philipp and Bio, a couple we got to know already at the airport in Honolulu and stayed in contact with. 😉 At the very end of the Peninsula, we saw huge albatross flying around the cliffs. Unfortunately, the penguins which inhabit the beach were only to be seen in the evening because they come home from their hunt – cute.
We decided to stay at the same campground as Philipp and Bio (who travelled with Philipps brother + girlfriend) and it was actually nice to have a group of people we could talk to instead of only each other. 🙂 Since Philipp group had the same route as we did, Mount Cook area, we started driving together and stopped shortly at Oamaru. The center of the city looked amazing, because it was maintained in a Victorian Style Of Living And additionally, there was a Steampunk museum with a ton of crazy stuff to see.
The closer we came to Mount Cook the emptier the region became…dry lands, a couple of houses, some massive dams, nothing else…our camp for the night was basically a forest next to Lake Pukaki. The color of this lake was turquoise blue, a sharp contrast to the mountains and the forest – simply a beautiful piece of land. We hopped in the water, saw the sunset and decided to do a small hike around the area together the next day. Strange noises in the night made us wake up – did we just hear someone or something walk around the car…? Brave as he was, Jakub got out of the car and tried to catch the nightly intruder, but it was gone by then…Ellen however thought it was probably some spooky figure of the endless horror movies she has seen and expected the girl of „The ring“ to stand next to the car…aaaaahhhh. Or maybe it was a small possum living on our supplies of food in the car?! We found out in the morning that there was no possum in the car, no signs of scary horror movie characters, but some bitten pine cones. 😉 The following hours we spend with group Philipp on the Hooker Valley Track until the afternoon, headed back to the camp where we had a serious Uno-match – Philipp lost and needed to jump in the lake – and went to sleep.
We were about to make our last kilometers here in NZ, because the next destination would be Christchurch, where our flight to Australia would departure. But beforehand we’d sadly have to sell Aby…honestly, we would have never thought that camping could be that much fun, but it was! The freedom we had choosing how long we wanted to stay where, always having our closet, bed and kitchen with us was perfect. We would do it all over again. 🙂
We drove to Christchurch and were super disappointed from the first visits at car dealers, who would have payed us less than a third of what we had originally paid for Aby. A late afternoon meeting with a guy who had seen our post on Facebook however completely changed our situation: he had serious interest in our van and wanted to buy it now. Like at this day….what?! 😀 And before we’d end up like a hundred other backpackers trying to sell their car desperately to someone, we sold Aby that day, had our last night in a camp, packed our backpacks and off we were to our AirBnb place. For Aby, a trip around NZ started all over again. 😉 May she drive the next 300.000km safely and secure.
Our last week in NZ was very lazy – not only did we enjoy unlimited WiFi and electricity AND a shower whenever we wanted, we also made some trips to the city centre. It really surprised us that the earthquake in 2011 destroyed such big parts of the city and that the Kiwis still build and construct many buildings.
The week passed by quickly and all of a sudden it was time to say goodbye to NZ. We discussed what we really liked about NZ and our list got very very long… 🙂 As a sum up:
- The variety of natural attractions: ocean, beaches, mountains, lakes,…everything combined in one country
- Most of the hikes can easily be done self guided and really show you the natural beauty of this country
- There’s something for everyone: either if you are a sports freak and very active or a sun loving beach girl, NZ offers plenty of things to do: skiing, hiking, rafting, kayaking,…
- While we were there, the temperature was mostly perfect – warm sunny days and cool nights
- Camping here was super easy and camps/apps were very user friendly. Once you download both CamperMate and WikiCamps, you’re settled and good to go!
What a wonderful time we had here! Thank you, New Zealand for being so magical 🙂