We make it to the South Island!!!
09.06.2010 - 13.07.2010
Wednesday was a nothing sort of day and all we did was take the 3 hour ferry to the South Island. It was time for some different adventures....
We booked into the nicest hostel yet in Kaikoura which we felt at home in as soon as we walked in. After an amazing night's sleep in a ridiculously comfy bed we were up early on a search for some animal watching. We found out the whale watching tour was running at 10am for $145 and they pointed us in the direction of the dolphin tours. The dolphin lady told us we might not get to swim with the dolphins as they hadn't been out for two weeks due to bad weather but we still chose to go ahead on their tour. We were up early enough to catch a beautiful sunrise over the mountains and sea: Kaikoura's scenery is just spectacular!
Once we were wet suited up we caught a bus to our boat where once again we were on the open water. We boated for 30-40 minutes without seeing anything but the odd flying albatross. Then up in front of us the skipper spotted what appeared to be a sperm whale, the biggest toothed whale. We stood and watched it for a few minutes before it dove back down to feed. This was the moment we had been waiting for and what a spectacular sight that great fin is in the air!! Kristian got super lucky and took an amazing photo in which "even the horizon's straight.
We'd had some news through that some dolphins of the dusky variety had been spotted and so we sped over to see them. Unfortunately they didn't seem to want to play with us and were travelling too fast. No swimming for us :-(. It was a massive pod though and we followed them for ages; they even treated us to some of their fabulous acrobatics. We found out how one female was once recorded mating five times with three separate males over the course of just 2 and a half minutes - what an efficient little slapper!!
After the dolphins the boat turned round to see some albatross which are pretty huge - they have a wingspan of 3 metres! They are pretty humorous when trying to take off because they are so heavy that they sort of jump across the water in order to gain momentum. We didn't hang around here too long and this time sped off to see a seal colony. It smelt just the same as they do at a zoo - so fishy! Not something Jo enjoyed as she was already feeling tender from the boat; not too sure what it is about these Kiwi waters :-( All in all though it had been a bargain as they charged us just $80 each!
Once we had our seal fill we headed back to land which was somewhat of a relief. Felt so good to get changed out of the sweaty wetsuits. We headed back to the hostel for some lunch and a shower before exploring Kaikoura's shops. It is such a beautiful little town in such a mesmerising setting. After a trip to yet another i-site we grabbed the car and drove out to the peninsula. her ewe saw even more seals but these were rather more entertaining than the others had been. One of them was full on sprawled out on the walkway not willing to move for anyone. We even saw a cub which was really cute but Jo managed to scare away with her concrete feet before we could get a picture.
We took a walk up the hill for some fantastic views over the town and of a bay which looked like a perfectly formed bottom! We were a bit early for the sunset and so we drove to the fireplace in the sea where we sat with the waves crashing around us. We stayed until we got too cold and had grown bored of the fantastic skies which were entertaining us (as if)!
Back at the hostel there was another power cut - seems to be a running theme with us! And so we sat down to enjoy some beers by candlelight. The people who run the hostel were cooking up a Mexican feast for us all and the power had returned before it was ready. The meal was yummy scrumptious with chocolate pudding and ice cream for dessert. We were two very happy souls as I am sure you can imagine! The after dinner entertainment was very musical - out came the ukuleles along with a wide array of other instruments. All made for a good jamming session. In the band we had five ukes, 2 guitars and a drum before mixing it up a little for a bit of an Irish jig. Kristian finally got his guitar into the right key and Jo didn't gloat too much about being right about this!! We worked through a number of songs and Jo even learnt some new chords for her ukulele. All in all a very well spent end to a wonderful day.
Once we had finally willed ourselves to get up and leave we ummed and ahhed about where we should go next. We decided against going to Hamner Springs as we had heard mixed reviews about it and it sounded like all we could do there would be to visit another hot pool. So we were off to Christchurch.
When we got there we booked into Foley Towers (yes it was a play on words) and went for an explore around the town as it was yet another beautiful day. Christchurch on the whole was rather disappointing - New Zealand's cities just don't compare to the rest of the country at all, its rather sad. We wandered down to Cathedral Square and had a nosy at some market stalls before headed off in search for the World music shop. It was a cosy little nook of a shop with an interesting assortment of instruments of all shapes and sizes; after some deliberation we decided to leave with a mouth harp. Perhaps by the time we get home we will have figured out how to get some decent noise out of it. After leaving here we trawled the streets looking for a coffee shop which was much harder than it ought to have been. Then it was off to use the internet which involved a frustrating attempt and failure to upload some photos. frankly I think we both wanted to turn round and return to Kaikoura.
Since it had been such a frustrating excuse for a day we decided to treat ourselves to a Wagamama's for tea which was a bit of an extravagant expense but more than worth it! We then headed off to the cinema where Kristian had the honour of watching SATC2 where he was one of the only males in the cinema; some girls even laughed at him when we were leaving!
There wasn’t much chance of us hanging around Christchurch for any longer and so we set out on the road to Lake Tekapo where we spent a much better day. It didn’t take too long to get there so once we were booked into a hostel we had the whole afternoon to play with. Lake Tekapo is a really pretty little village which had a fresh layer of snow covering it. Damn cold though so we piled on the layers to avoid freezing. It also has a famous little church which has the best view from the window:
We headed up to the resort and bought two tickets to go snow tubing. This was a ridiculous amount of fun – definitely up there with the activities we have done so far. Our passes lasted for an hour in which we got a fair few runs down the hill. The walk back up was great exercise to boot! We soon discovered the quickest way to go down was joined together but you had to watch not to get a foot in the face! It was mainly children going down but we didn’t mind because it was jolly good fun!
Then it was time for another soak in a hot pool, not quite so earned this time but it sure did warm us up! We spent most of night with Kristian teaching Jo to play chess which has since become a newfound obsession. As a little treat before bed we drove away from the village and out onto the road where there was no light pollution. From here we could see the most amount of stars that either of us has ever seen – we could even see the Milky Way! It was a truly magical and beautiful moment.
Our next journey took us into the mountains and along icy roads to Mount Cook where we arrived about lunchtime. The lady at the information centre was being deliberately unhelpful and after milling around there we decided to walk to Kea point which would take about an hour. It was the most beautiful scenery which we have been through to date. There was a thick layer of sparkling snow covering the ground and the sun was beaming in the sky. The first part of the walk was through trees and bushes which were weighed down with snow formed beautiful archways around the path. It was like being in a Winter Wonderland with added mountains. It was much warmer then Tekapo despite the snow and we were soon shedding some of the many layers. It was a time also where we seriously mourned having no sunglasses as we spent have the walk blinded by the sun and snow meaning we therefore missed out on the fantastic landscapes.
The view of Mount Cook from Kea Point was spectacular: the mountain was perfectly framed. We stopped for a little while admiring the view and cursing ourselves for not bringing a picnic.
The walk back to the centre was even more pleasant for now we were even able to see where we were going as the sun was behind us. We decided not to hang around for the night as the ice had cleared from the roads so we started the two hour trip to Wanaka. This was another spectacular drive through the mountains if a little slower than necessary due to the ice/grit. We also caught a wonderful sunset on the final part of our journey before arriving into Wanaka.
We could have been mistaken ourselves for being in England as at the supermarket it was the only accent we heard! It seems to be the destination of choice for those from the UK who are doing a season in NZ. We soon had full bellies and put on our abundance of washing; the people in the hostel were really nice and friendly so we settled down with them to watch the last 4 episodes of Band of Brothers with them.
The first point of call on Monday morning was the i-site so we could get a weather update in order to establish what our next move would be. The weather looked good at Milford Sound and so we decided this to be a sensible place to head.
But first of all there was more important things on the menu: Puzzling World was calling out name!! We ventured into the Great Maze and had to find the four corners in any order (this was the easier version). We’d found all the corners in less than 20 minutes which we were rather impressed by and then spent a further few minutes on the upper tier trying to fathom where the exit was. We were out in half an hour which we didn’t feel was too shabby! Our reward was a wee in a Roman toilet with some Romans: our first experience of some rather cool illusions. From there we headed into the rooms, the first of which was the hologram room. Some of the holograms are wicked as they have multiple exposures which means the image changes as you move. One of the freakiest had to be the once with five variations of clown which sat about a meter away from the wall!
Feeling as if our distance perception was out we decided to leave the room and go to the Room of Faces. In here they have 160 concave moulds of famous daces from floor to ceiling. As you move around the room the whole face follows you – not just the eyes! The weirdest once is the top ones as they are proper looking down at you and the strangest thing of all is that they look convex!
As we are now a bit spooked out from being glared down by Nelson Mandela we head into the “Ames Illusion” room. This is a technique which they use to make people look smaller and taller than they really are and was what they used to film LOTR. This was rather peculiar on the whole to see the two of us looking like giants – first for everything at least! The final room was a generally messed up room with a wonky floor. This really affects your balance as nothing is as it seems. We first of all messed up our eyes by looking at a Black and White board of squares which looked like they were vibrating before seeing a ball roll up a pool table. We also climbed up some steps to stand horizontal but we look wonky because everything else in the room is so screwed up. Our last adventure in the room as on an upwards ride which was technically going down…think it is fair to say we were both now feeling a bit queasy and were wishing for more even ground! We sat in the café and played with some of the puzzles before setting of on our journey to Te Anau. This journey had us see another amazing sunset but that was the most exciting part of the evening – the rest of it was spent playing chess again.
We set out at about 10am for Milford Sound. The drive to it is quite spectacular and very scenic with a number of lookouts along the way.
The coolest part of this road is a tunnel through a huge mountain which was started in the Depression which has been done by hand. It is visible from the chiseled walls and is certainly the most charismatic tunnel I have ever seen! It’s also amazing when you get to the other side to believe you have just travelled through something so huge!
The journey took a couple of hours and we dumped our bags off at the Lodge before going for a little explore. We tried to do the walk the guy at the Lodge had recommended but got turned away because it has been closed for four years! Instead we explored around the peninsula before heading down to the harbour/fresh water basin for a nose. After this we thought we we’d have a little chill out until sunset and Jo finally beat Kristian at a game of chess!! Woop :-).
We went back out to the peninsula for the sunset and were able to go further our as the tide was out. We were the only two out there pretending to be adventurers – Kristian’s eyes were glued to the floor looking for “good rocks”. This meant that Jo was leading the way and led us to a piece of driftwood we had to walk across. Needless to sat it was very slippy and we both fell off towards the end meaning we had lovely soggy socks! The sunset on the whole was a bit of a let down and so we headed back to the lodge to spend the evening scrapbooking.
End of week!!!