I must admit, dear reader, that I did not have many expectations in relation to New Zealand. This is probably because I have never seen a Lord of the Rings movie or indeed opened the Lonely Planet (that's Francis' job) and if you had asked me about Middle Earth I would have assumed that you were talking about Athlone. However, having now been there, done that and bought the All-Blacks jersey, it is easily one of the most amazing countries I have visited as part of our trip. It's epic*.
To see NZ we booked a bus trip around the South island (not as pensioners-like as it sounds). We hopped on the bus in Christchuch , then on to Kaikoura and Picton. We were in Picton for 2 nights so took the opportunity to visit the Marlborough vineyards and sample their work. From Picton we headed to Abel Tasman Park for 2 nights where about 8 of us walked 24 km round trip to the Anchorage. The weather was less than ideal, but we survived.
Next stop on the trip was the sleepy town of Greymouth, but about 3 hours into the journey a snow storm hit so they
Ahh a lovely Red
...Marlborough wine tour
took in the roads. We holed up in a cafe beside a fire learning German drinking games while the snow passed and the road was cleared. We got going again after about an hour and on the way to Greymouth we got to stop at Lake Mahinapua, and saw some awesome pancake rocks and blow holes.
From Greymouth we headed to Franz Joseph where we did a one-day hike of the glacier which was definately one of the highlights of the entire trip so far. A night in Makarora, via the mirror Lake Matheson, broke the journey to Queenstown where we spent four nights. Queenstown blew away the cobwebs of the quiet towns we had been in so far! We headed up the cable car for some great views of the city, played a bit of frisbee golf, had a Fergburger (we ordered chips with - what a rookie mistake), sampled the local happy hours and also spent a day out in the amazing Milford Sound (it's actually a fjord - silly Europeans).
From Queenstown we flew to Wellington so had to say goodbye to our bus-tour friends which was a bit sad as we had spent some
great times together, but I have no doubt we'll be seeing you all at some stage when we get home xx In good news, Wellington is where my gorgeous cousin Gillian and her boyfriend Barry live so we got to spend 5 excellent nights with them there in their fabulous apartment.
While in windy Wellington we visited the Te Papa museum, Weta cave, got some great views from various look out spots about the city and generally ate and drank like royalty (Gill's homemade lasagna anyone?!). We were also treated to brunch in Gill's cafe where she is quite the local celebrity!
From Wellington, we caught a bus to Rotorua for some geo-thermal action. Sounds and looks exciting; smells like rotten eggs. We also spent an afternoon in Whakarewarewa where a Mauri tribe live and utilise the springs for cooking, bathing and the likes. We also got to see a Mauri cultural show which included the Haka. I would have given them the rugby ball straight away if faced with that! From Rotorua it was a bus to Aukland airport and onto the South American leg of our journey.
While we visited some great spots in New
Zealand, the best bits for me were the views along the way. There is something about this country that makes you want to find your old geography book and read up on the many, many things I did not appreciate in text and 'artist impressions' as a 15 year old (about 10 years ago). The people here are amazing, it is a real relaxed and friendly country and they knock out some of the best Sauvigon Blanc I have ever tasted :)
*Epic is copyrighted by Eimear Mc Bride.
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