Middle Earth or Little Britain?

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December 9th 2006
Published: December 14th 2006
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Tasman Glacier lakeTasman Glacier lakeTasman Glacier lake

Icy sludge marks the edges of the glacier which is advancing 200m per year.
So what's so great about New Zealand then? It's one of those countries that no one says anything bad about. In fact, anyone we have met who has made it this far south hasn't shut up about the place. So let's cut to it, we know you all have Christmas parties to embarrass yourselves at. So, is New Zealand:

Really that beautiful? Yes.
Always wet? Yes, well, we have only had 2 wet days out of ten so far - but that is very lucky. Parts of this Island get over 7 metres per year.
Full of sheep? Yes, 10 for every 1 New Zealander. So that's about 40 million. And that's a lot of sheep to shag!

Erm, so anyway, we arrived in the South Island in Christchurch which is the major city of the South Island. Strangely, it is a very Anglicised place. For example, Christchurch is the capital of the Canterbury region and welcomed us with some chilly Antarctic winds on our arrival. So cold in fact, we had to nip straight to the Salvation Army to pick up some warm coats. People here are constantly talking about the weather and are in a state of
Glenorchy, 15km north of QueenstownGlenorchy, 15km north of QueenstownGlenorchy, 15km north of Queenstown

Bloomin' lovely. Foxgloves and snowy peaks.
extreme readiness for the constant changes that happen here in any given day. You can usually find them huddled in the pub wrapped up in fleece tops and shorts. So apart from the shorts then, you could really be in any small city in Britain.

Where New Zealand really gets interesting though is when you leave the cities behind head out in the countryside. So that we duly did, by hiring ourselves a Toyota Corolla and driving off into the countryside. First stop, and one of our highlights, only a couple of hours drive from Christchurch was beautiful turquoise Lake Tekapo. This lake has been coloured by "rock flour" which was gouged out by glaciers from its bed. Really stunning. Next we spent some time walking around the stunning Mount Cook - or as the Maori call it Aoraki meaning Cloud Piercer. The Maori names are far more descriptive and interesting.

From there we headed through the strangely Scottish obsessed town of Dunedin and down through the scenic Catlins region. We stopped along the coast here and were lucky enough to spot Yellow Eyed Penguins (the rarest species of penguin in the world) and lots of elephant and fur seals
Mount Cook Mount Cook Mount Cook

Stunning view of NZ's highest mountain Aoraki (Mt Cook), elevation 3754m.
along the coast. After reaching the very southern tip of the South Island at Invercargill - certainly the furthest south we have ever been - we headed up the west coast stopping at the amazing Milford Sound and Lake Te Anau.

Milford was one of our most anticipated stops on this trip and we were a little disappointed when we arrived up as it was teaming with rain and visibility was only about 100 metres. We learned though that this region of New Zealand gets the second highest rainfall in the world - apparently after some part of Tahiti. So we weren't that unlucky really, and we set off on some nice walks around the fjord. The stunning waterfalls that pour down into the sound were at full flow and really impressive but on the whole we felt that fjord was a bit overrun with tourists. There were hoards of boats travelling up and down the inlet and the jetty resembled down town Shibuya at lunch time as four bus loads of Japanese tourists all arrived at once and began to jostle for a photo.

From here we made our way up the west coast to the unique
Milford SoundMilford SoundMilford Sound

Rain sweeps the delta on the shores of Milford Sound.
Franz Josef and Fox glaciers. Two of the only glaciers in the world that stretch from high mountains down to temperate rain forest near sea level. They are both quite a site and the ease at which they crush and contort the landscape at will is a humbling thing to experience. We even managed to spend a day doing some climbing up on Franz Josef and learning all about it's formation and effect on the surrounding topography.

So all in all, the South Island is a breathtakingly beautiful place and driving around it has been so easy. There is no traffic around, no traffic jams, and just miles and miles of stunning scenery. It's a tough life indeed. Next stop the North Island. Stay tuned.....

Additional photos below
Photos: 25, Displayed: 24


View of the Southern Alps from the planeView of the Southern Alps from the plane
View of the Southern Alps from the plane

Magnificent views of the Alps thanks again to Quantas!
Christmas Parade, ChristchurchChristmas Parade, Christchurch
Christmas Parade, Christchurch

A day out for the kids and Pat & Cat :)
Mount Cook Mount Cook
Mount Cook

A rare glimpse of the peak before the rain closed in.
Tasman ValleyTasman Valley
Tasman Valley

Glacial valley
Glacial factsGlacial facts
Glacial facts

The details!
Cadbury World, DunedinCadbury World, Dunedin
Cadbury World, Dunedin

Patrick has the best day of his trip at the Cadbury factory and grows a huge Cadbury's halo.
Roaring Bay,The Catlins Roaring Bay,The Catlins
Roaring Bay,The Catlins

National Park between Invercargill and Balclutha. Here we sighted two rare yellow eyed penguins.
Nugget Bay,The Catlins Nugget Bay,The Catlins
Nugget Bay,The Catlins

Sightings of many sea lions and elephant seals. The only place on the NZ mainland where these species coexist.
Milford SoundMilford Sound
Milford Sound

Patrick hopes the rain will stop so we can see something here. Not sure about the knacker outfit mind you.
New Zealand Lamb.New Zealand Lamb.
New Zealand Lamb.

Lake TekapoLake Tekapo
Lake Tekapo

Turquoise brilliance.
Baldwin St, Dunedin.Baldwin St, Dunedin.
Baldwin St, Dunedin.

Cat takes a break on the steepest street in the world.
Rob Roy GlacierRob Roy Glacier
Rob Roy Glacier

Superb hanging glacier. Mt Aspiring National Park.
Glacial runoffGlacial runoff
Glacial runoff

Waterfall in Mt Aspiring National Park.
Franz Josef GlacierFranz Josef Glacier
Franz Josef Glacier

Papa Smurf negotiates the icy maze.
Franz Josef GlacierFranz Josef Glacier
Franz Josef Glacier

Smurfs at work. Good ice sticks.
Glacier caveGlacier cave
Glacier cave

Very nice.
Yet another kitchen...Yet another kitchen...
Yet another kitchen...

Bored of the nature shots? Patrick puts on a brave face while rummaging for a teaspoon in yet another hostel kitchen.

14th December 2006

Seen any hobbits?
Wow, NZ looks amazing. Penny Fathings and sheep, who could ask for more? Hope all that traveling gear you got before you left is going strong, I remember the day of looking at all kinds of bags, big ones, small ones, waterproof ones and on and on... Keep having adventures, I am sure you will.
14th December 2006

Wow, amaaaaazing pictures guys! I love the essential ice sticks! Pat did the chocolate taste the same as home??!

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