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Published: January 23rd 2006
Taking it easy
Ferry trip from Wellington to Picton
The ferry ride across to the South Island was really something, with the last 20 minutes winding our way through the spectacular Marlborough Sounds to the port of Picton. I think we knew then that the South Island was going to be really picturesque, and we have not been disappointed. In the week that we have been travelling here, it has only rained once, although we are told to expect wet weather on the West Coast. Our journey began with a short drive on a very steep and curvy road (we now know that nearly every road on this island is like that) to a little place called Anakiwa, set on the waters edge in the Marlborough Sounds. We had a little cottage on the waters edge all to ourselves and the owner, Helen, met us with freshly baked bread from her bread machine, and fresh veges from her sister's garden! What a treat. The water in the sounds is aquamarine and the hillsides are covered in dark green forests.
Our little cottage was also at the start of the Queen Charlotte track, a scenic path along the edge of the mountains, through forests and along the water's edge. Early
the next day we set off on what would be a 26km hike to Mistletoe Bay, where we ate our sandwiches and had a nap under the trees with the ducks sitting close to us also having a power nap (we realised they were secretly hoping for some crusts!) The track is well kept but pretty hectic at times, but the views from above were breathtaking. The sun shone brightly in blue skies and the fresh air helped us along. Needless to say the next day we were full of aches and pains, but it was definitely worth every step.
Next stop down the coast was Kaikoura, renown for the whales, dolphins and seals that play offshore in the waters nearby. The beaches were pebble but the water was again a beautiful blue. The bay is backed by the Kaikoura range which are a stark contrast with the green foothills approaching the blue sea. It rained on our first afternoon here, so we spent most of the day reading books and drinking coffee. Next day dawned sunny and we took a hike along the clifftops to south bay and saw the seal colony and even managed a little sunburn.
Thorn among the roses
Botanical Gardens - Christchurch
It was our anniversary, and since we are on a budget and trying to lead very simple lives, we treated ourselves to a game of mini golf!!! We have to be the only people I know ever to do that as an anniversary present... Anyway we had great fun and Keith only beat Lisa by 3 shots, although we were both way over par. We celebrated our talents with a beer at the local Irish pub, the Strawberry Tree and lapped up the afternoon sunshine in the beer garden.
Christchurch was our next destination and first stop was to collect our beloved camera which is now repaired and working overtime trying to catch up with all the pics we missed taking over the last week. Christchurch was a really busy town after the little places we had been to, but we only had a few hours there. We stopped in at the Ballantynes department store which is over 150 years old and well known in NZ. Later whilst browsing in one of the secondhand bookshops, Lisa found a book on the history f the Ballantyne store and the families of the same name in this region of NZ, but
it was a huge coffee table book which would not have fit in to her tiny backpack, so Keith had to tear her her away from it.
We walked along the banks of the river Avon in the Botanical gardens, and ate our lunch on a bench, laughing at the tourists in all manner of floating devices, trying to paddle down the river. The poor punters were trying to look graceful and remain calm in their braces and straw boaters, but there were several collisions taking place and we thought it best not to hire a boat after all. The rose garden was beautiful and the perfume heavenly. Coffee stop was had at Worcester Street alongside the Arts Centre where we admired the restored trams rattling along the road. There is a distinct English flavour to the town in the architecture and the whole feel of it. We were entertained and treated to several shows around the town, as the World Busker Fair was being held and we watched some great acts. We weren't staying in Queenstown but further afield in a little town called Fairlie where we spent the night.
The Lake district has been one of
World Busker Festival - Christchurch
the highlights of our trip so far. Lake Tekapo was a beautiful sight with blazing blue water - a result of the sediment in the water from the time when the basin was gouged out by a stony glacier - the fine particles were ground up and suspended in the glacial melt. There is a little stone church built in 1935, set right on the waters edge, the back wall of the church a mere pain of glass with commanding views of the water and the mountains beyond. We set off on a hike along the waters edge, across grass plains and through bushes and gravel paths. (To tell the truth we actually got lost, couldn't find the proper walking track and so set off on what we thought was a track, but was probably just where the sheep had been grazing...)
If we thought the views couldn't get any better, we were wrong. We rolled in to Wanaka later that day and were awe struck by the sight that met our eyes - truly a picture postcard sight. The lake is set against mountains that are snow capped, even in summer and this made a spectacular backdrop to
New Regent St - Christchurch
the lake. Sunday dawned and we attended mass at the little church with amazing views of the lake, then set off on an hour long drive along a dirt road to Mt Aspiring National Park. This park has more than 100 glaciers in it and covers more than 3 500 sq km of the Southern Alps. The scenery along the road became more oustanding the deeper we got in to the park. We tramped the well known Rob Roy track for 90 minutes uphill to the head of the valley. We were rewarded with the dramatic view of the Rob Roy Glacier in front of us. We ate our lunch on the rocks below and marvelled at the glacier. Every few minutes a loud "crack" would echo across the valley and ice would fall down the face of the mountain. It has to be one of the most amazing things we have ever seen. The hike itself takes you past sheer cliffs, steep waterfalls and a fast flowing river. We were so glad we had made the effort to get there.
Exhausted after the hike, we drove back to Wanaka and collapsed in the shade by the lake to
read our books.
There was much speculation as to whether we would make the journey to Queenstown, but we did and are really glad to be here. We took the alternate route along Crown Range Road which happens to be the highest road in NZ - Lisa was pretty scared and when we stopped the car to take pics at various points along the way we couldn't believe the drop in temperature because we had climbed up so far. Some of the hair pin bends had us driving at 20 kms. We stopped in at Arrowtown, an old mining village still set up in the old fashioned style and had coffee before moving on to Queenstown. The town itself is a tourist mecca geared towards activities and shopping and eating. But not for us, on with the old hiking boots and we headed for the Botanical Gardens and did a walk along the waters edge. The cool breezes off the water were a welcome relief and for the first time in NZ we were actually hot and sweaty! Found a secluded rock jutting out in to the water and even convinced each other to swim in the icy waters.
The water was so clear and inviting we couldn't have walked by. It was however, breathtaking in every sense of the word and our legs ached from the cold. We dried off on the rock enjoying the sunshine and then set off for our camp site. We have been staying in the Top Ten sites along the way as they work out cheaper than backpackers and you get your own little cabin, albeit with just a bed and table, but the facilities have been very good. Our site here in Queenstown is particlularly lovely, set against towering mountains.
Tomorrow is a long day of driving and we will end up at the Fox Glacier where we have booked a one day hike. Only one week left here, but feeling good.
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