Here’s to tents flapping in the wind. To swimming in the sea because there’s no shower and watching baby ducks instead of facebook. To learning to speak German by playing cards by candle light. To airbeds and sleeping bags. To not looking in a mirror for three days and sleeping in all of your clothes. To sticking your head out of the tent to see the stars. Here’s to pasta and pesto, to kindles, and to spending thirty minutes boiling water for coffee before realising the gas canister is empty. Let’s hear it for eye masks, more sheep than people, finding forgotten chocolate santas, and cold beer. Here’s to laughter and hugs, shit weather in the summer, and drinking wine from a mug. Here’s to long walks. Here’s to jumping out of the ocean because you’ve seen a sting ray the same size as your tent. Here’s to pulling over at the side of the road to say hello to the seals. Here’s to good friends. Here’s to the bitter sweetness of homesickness. Here’s to a few days left before the plane journey. Here’s to joy.
After Christchurch, we headed to Kaikura for our much-anticipated dolphin swim. Kaikura, on the East coast of the South Island, is famous for its sealife and seafood.
For some reason, (I’m not sure who is responsible,) we had booked the 5.30am slot. Well actually, we booked it because this is the time when you’ll see the most dusky dolphins, as they’re heading out for their breakfast. This meant waking up at 4.15am, and packing up the tent. This was just as much fun as you can imagine it would be, and was made more enjoyable by trying to put a bikini on in the tent, in the dark. Breakfast was suggested, and I wasn’t at all hungry, but in hindsight, I’m very relived that I poked down a piece of toast….
We jumped in Simson the van, and headed to the Kaikura Dolphin Encounter Headquarters. (The venue also offers the more humorous sounding “Albatross Encounter” and intriguing “Cafe Encounter.”)
After filling out some health forms, me lying and saying I was competent at snorkelling, ho ho ho, we were ushered into the changing rooms and handed items of wetsuit, snorkels and flippers to wear.
Philine and I are both ridiculously tall so we found it absolutely hysterical trying to limber into a wetsuit designed for a much shorter person, ouch. We then sauntered sexily into the little cinema area where we all gathered and watched a briefing video. All seemed well, until at the end of the film when a staff member came through and uttered the fateful words:
“Okay! Great. We’ve been experiencing moderate swell and have had a few people suffering from sea sickness over the past few days, so I do hope you’ve all taken the appropriate medication. If not, we do have some ginger tablets for sale which might help.”
Tom and I looked at each other. We’re both hopeless when it comes to sea sickness, so I sent him off to get some ginger tablets with a great sense of foreboding.
We were all then ushered onto the bus that took us out to the water, where we boarded the boat. The boat took us out into the ocean, where we were scanning the waters for signs of the dusky dolphins. The sun was just coming up, and the boat was bopping all over the place in the waves. We saw lots of albatrosses, which were amazing. I’ve never seen them before; gigantic seagulls, about the size of a dog with a six foot wingspan. They were huge and fascinating. I loved watching them dive into the sea for their breakfasts, and how they just bobbed about on the waves, clearly completely unfazed by the “moderate swell.” We were then advised that once we’d swam, the blankets provided wouldn’t keep us warm if we didn’t get our wetsuits off first. I was like “well durrrrr” but little did I know…
The boat then let out a huge horn blast, signalling dolphins had been spotted and it was time to get in the water. I crammed my snorkel on, and whilst the lady was checking I’d fitted it properly, I saw dolphins doing backflips out of the water, it was so exciting! We made our way to the back of the boat and flopped into the water. It. Was. So. Fucking. Cold.
I stayed close to Tom. Everyone looks exactly the same with their wetsuit hat and snorkel on, but luckily Tom’s beard made him easier to identify. He had to put some vaseline in his moustache before we hit the water. I thought this was so his little face didn’t get cold, but it was actually to create a better seal with the snorkel. Haha.
Anyway. We hit the water and there were dolphins everywhere. Hundreds and hundreds of them swimming around us, circling and leaping out of the water. It was at the same time completely amazing and completely overwhelming. I was shocked from the cold of the water and also panicked by the waves and the snorkel so I had a little hyperventilating episode and then sorted myself out. Once I had recovered, I put my head under the water and there were beautiful dolphins everywhere. I started to sing through my snorkel to them (don’t worry reader, I hadn’t gone completely insane, we had been advised that this would get their attention.)
As I sang, the dolphins came right up to me, looked me right in the eye, circled me a few times and then headed off. It was too awesome to put into words. As I raised my head I could see the little guys jumping around. They don’t just leap out of the water, they do full on summersaults and backflips, slapping down into the waves. It was absolutely incredible!! After a while, the dolphin pod lost interest in us mere humans and headed off for some more breakfast.
The horn on the boat went, signalling us to come back onboard. I made my way back to the boat, tried to pull myself up and then abruptly fell back off again which made Kerry laugh. There seems to be a running theme on this trip of humiliation every time I go near a snorkel! I had a bright red float with me, which made me look even more silly. Anyway, I finally got on and we headed off to find the next group of dolphins. I was feeling pretty panicked by the waves and the snorkel, but managed to calm myself a bit. All the while a creeping feeling of nausea came over me…
(Looking a wee bit worse for wear…)
The horn blew again and off we went. More amazing dolphins, we must have seen at least 800 dolphins all together. I kept taking deep breaths and daring myself to put my head under the water. Every time I did, there were dolphins everywhere. Beautiful. Unfortunately my body began fighting the waves and I felt sicker until I was just clinging to my float, staring into the water telling myself “don’t be sick, don’t be sick, don’t be sick.”
Finally the horn blew, and I made my way back. Back on the ship I identified Philine sitting opposite me (not easy with those masks on) I slapped my way across to her in my flippers, clinging to anything to keep me upright. The boat was bopping and lurching so much. I heaved myself next to her saying “oh my god I feel soooooo sick.” to which Philine replied “I’ve just been sick three times in the sea.”
Somehow Philine went out again, as did all the rest of the group except me and another English girl who was feeling ill. Then it happened.
I was very sick into a bucket. After a while, the crew member said “we’ve got one coming home!” I replied, “Does he have a beard? If he does it’s my one.” She said no.
Then everyone started coming back and the girl goes “Oh look, there’s the beard!” I saw Tom on the other side of the boat looking very sick and with a huge bogey hanging out of his nose. I said “yep! That one’s mine!” Anyway, to cut a long story short, the rest of the trip was spent violently being ill into a bucket. Tom was doing it. Philine was doing it. People were being sick everywhere. Luckily they had enough buckets for everyone.
Kerry, however, was absolutely fine, sat around, smiling at everyone and drinking chicken soup. To do him credit, he did manage to take some photos and videos, which is really lucky, as the rest of us were in no state to manage it. I felt so sick that I couldn’t get my wetsuit off, to get my clothes on and warmed up, and I couldn’t get back inside. Philine was in the same state so we just sat there shaking with the cold, head in buckets, rubbing eachothers backs and waiting for it to be over. I’ve never been so cold, or felt so ill in my entire life.
I was delighted to be on dry land. We decided to rename the morning from the “Dolphin Encounter” to the “Dolphin and Sick Encounter.” And a “moderate swell”?! I don’t even want to imagine what a “major swell” would have been like!
Travelling is a funny old thing. One moment you’re nearly crying in awe of these beautiful intelligent animals, and the next your body is up shit creek without a paddle. But I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.
After Omaru, we happily boarded our final intercity bus of the trip. The buses have been really easy, and cheap, but we were really bloody fed up of sitting on the bus by this point!
Christchurch was our destination. Having suffered two huge earthquakes, one in 2010 and another the following year, Christchurch is a shell of the city it once was. There’s not much there anymore, and it’s really sad to see. Loads of the buildings are now unsafe to enter, so they’re decaying and covered in graffiti. Some of the older churches remain, propped up by scaffolding, but most of the buildings have been demolished and then turned into carparks. So I guess it would have been handy if we had a car – plenty of places to park!
We had another long slog to get to the hostel. This time in the rain. Luckily it was a nice one again – phew! We did some laundry, made some food and then fell asleep, totally knackered from seeing so many places and walking so far.
The next day was a lazy start – I love a relaxing morning when you’re not rushing to check out! We waited for the rain to stop, but it didn’t, so we headed out into the city. We walked past a lovely memorial – A church badly damaged in the first quake was rebuilding when it was destroyed by the second. Instead of starting again they decided to take 187 of the stones from the building (one for each person who died) and lay them out as a memorial pathway.
Next we found the cardboard cathedral. The original again fell in the earthquakes, so a Japanese designer made this one – complying to earthquake safety standards by 130% and made with cardboard pillars and a plastic roof. Despite not being huge, it seats over 700 and feels enormous, and so full of light.
We then walked to the city square where another church is propped up with scaffolding and full of pigeons. All round the city is street art, which is really beautiful and gives the place a sense of optimism and hope for the slow but steady rebuild.
We then headed back to the hostel and prepared for the arrival of ZE GERMANS!
Philine and Kerry arrived and it felt so good to see them! We headed to the supermarket and then had a few drinks in the campervan before heading out for a night out. We walked for what felt like an hour in the rain to several bars that were having private parties and then finally found an Irish bar that let us have a drink. We had been walking for so long that we decided to get some food (macdonalds of course) and then head home. We had to walk for about 45minutes again in the rain. (everything is so spread out in Christchurch) before finally seeing the golden arches.
It was closed. But the drive through was open. We tried going to the window and pretending to be in a car but the server was having none of it. He suggested that we call a taxi and get the cab to drive us round…. We were stumped…. And quite drunk… And very hungry…
We stood around moaning for ages and then a car pulled up and a man got out and walked towards us, speaking in sign language. As Tom’s mummy is a teacher of the deaf, Tom can speak sign language too, and quickly started conversing with the guy, and then said “okay, he says he’ll take me round if I do his order too!”
Tom Copley = my absolute hero. Turns out the guy was French, and it was his first day in New Zealand. It was an awesome, yet very surreal moment. We all found it absolutely hilarious that in order to get a Macdonalds when you’re drunk in Christchurch, you have to be able to speak sign language to a deaf French man. Challenge accepted!
Philine and Kerry slept in their van parked on the street outside the hostel. We were very relieved to find them still there in the morning, and after a bit of recovery, we were on the road to Kaikura.
This post should have come before Omaru and Dunedin – I’m confused and trying to catch up whilst we have wifi. Sorry! Scroll down after this post and you’ll find the other entry. Xx
Our favourite Darth Vader breathing bus driver took us to Queenstown. We checked in at possibly the worst hostel of the trip so far. The only redeeming quality was that we had a room to ourselves, but it stank, sheets were dirty, kitchen was too grim Tto cook in and I got woken up by people loudly having sex in the disgusting communal bathroom, having lost one of my treasured ear plugs. And moving swiftly on….
Queenstown was so cool! It’s basically loads of nice shops and bars at the base of a huge lake with a nice beach. There’s lots to do and lots to see. We wandered the town, and then dropped into a tourist info office to book our bungee jump for the following day… Another activity that I forced Tom into doing. Poor soul.
We had the choice between a 43m jump off a bridge, or the ‘Nevis’ – 130m ish jump off a purpose built platform. Having seen a video of a fellow traveller doing the Nevis, we decided to go for the bridge – the Nevis looks bloody terrifying! The woman at the office also told us that we could jump together off the bridge, which made it seem less scary, and we could continue on the theme of “if we die, we die together.”
After that we went back to the hostel from hell and started watching “Jaws” on the laptop. I’m not sure why. Good film though. Then we popped out to meet Fabian again for a drink in his lovely hostel (more than slightly green-eyed) and then headed back home to bed.
The following morning was the day of the bungee!! We headed to the bungee office, and checked in. We mentioned that we wanted to jump together and the woman eyed us suspiciously, saying our weights needed to be within 30kgs of each other, and she wasn’t sure if they were. I found this absolutely hilarious because she clearly thought Tom was a right fat bastard because we were only 16kgs apart in the end! She then took a big green pen and wrote our bus number on our hands. I think she did this so that if you change your mind and run out in the street they can chase after you and force you onto the correct bus. We had a long sweaty-handed wait. The toilets were absolutely packed with people doing what you imagine people do when they’re terrified…
We then embarked on a twenty minute scenic drive to the Kawarau bridge. We didn’t appreciate this drive because we were panicking. We went into the centre to check in again and be weighed again. This time they write your weight on your hand in big red numbers. I spent most of the wait shuffling around embarrassed with my hand in one pocket. It didn’t help that there were loads of miniature Asian women who weighed like 50kgs. Felt like a right heffer!!
We then decided to go onto the bridge and see what we were in for. This made Tom panic more and me panic less. The river below the bridge was a stunning turquoise colour, and I realised that if my bungee snapped I’d just go for a swim!
Kawarau Bridge is where the world’s first commercial bungee jump took place. The originators took note of the Vanuatuan land jumpers (Karl pilkington hahaha) and made their own version in New Zealand.
The best thing about the whole operation is that when you’ve done a few bounces, two blokes in an inflatable boat come out into the river with a big stick to pull you down onto the boat and undo your bungy. For some reason I thought this was absolutely hilarious and I think I may have found my dream job!!
So on and on we waited, until we were finally re-weighed and then put our harnesses on. The instructed demonstrated how we would hold on with our arms around each other and under no circumstances were we to let go. I imagine if you let go you would be like a pair of conkers or something. We sat down near the edge of the platform and had a towel wrapped around our legs and tied together then attached to the bungy. You can see all this in the video. We then stood up and shuffle shuffle shuffled to the edge of the jump. (Very hard when your legs are tightly strapped together.) looking over the edge was terrifying. That was the scariest bit. We were told not to jump, but just to lean forward. We started to lean and then we
And did some bounces. It felt like when your car goes over an unexpected bump in the road, but multiplied by 1000. Tom’s fingers touched the water and splashed me. Then on the bounce back I’d forgotten to keep my head down (I always do this on roller coasters) and my head flopped about a bit. Idiot. Then we did a few more bounces and all of a sudden the boat with the big stick was coming to get us. Hehehe. We have more photos and video evidence. But as I said, wifi is shocking.
So we were done! I’m so glad we did it. And in the best place in the world too. We hopped back on the bus to Queenstown, eager to get there because we were due to be meeting up with Tom’s brother Billy and his mates.
It was a gorgeous day and we were enjoying wandering the town and the feeling of having survived death. We walked along the beach, then headed to the supermarket when we get a text from Billy saying “we’re on the beach, come meet us!”
So we must have walked right past them. How funny! Tom crept up behind Billy and wrestled him. It was really good to catch up and it felt completely surreal yet completely normal! We went out for a few drinks that evening and Billy’s lot went on a bar crawl concluding with a 5am swim in the lake. I think I’m getting old…
The next day we were up early for the 7am bus to Milford Sound. Guess who was driving?? You guessed it! Deep breathing Vader bus driver of course!
The bus had a glass roof and I couldn’t figure out the point of it until we got closer to fjordland and the mountains got bigger and bigger until you could only see the tops of them through the bus ceiling. The scenery was incredible. We came through a mountain tunnel into a valley area where we were surrounded by enormous stone mountains. On the return journey it was raining, and there were waterfalls coming down all the mountain sides. The scenes we saw are so hard to put into words and photos don’t do then justice. It was a long journey, but probably the best bus journey I’ve been on.
When we reached Milford Sound, we left Billy and co, who were staying in the village. We headed onto a cruise boat to see the sounds from the water. I was a little apprehensive about this, but the boat wasn’t very big and there was a buffet which we didn’t pay for which kept most of the annoying people busy whilst we were out on deck in the wind. Author of the Jungle Book, Rudiard Kipling described Milford Sound as “the eighth natural wonder of the world,” and you can see why. The scale of the mountains was insane. We had a cloudy day but it made it really atmospheric. We stopped at one point to see a big seal colony. The seals are nocturnal and they were all so sleepy and funny during the daytime.
Milford Sound is definitely one of my favourite places in New Zealand, and our trip so far. It was absolutely stunning, and even in the height of the busiest season it still feels so untouched. I’m so lucky lucky lucky
Dunedin and Omaru
Well. There are several towns in the South Island that don’t even have electricity yet, so it isn’t all that surprising that the wifi is pretty scant here. Or rather, the free wifi is pretty scant haha.
We’re currently travelling with Philine and Kerry in their campervan, and camping each night in our tent. I’m a convert! We treated ourselves to an airbed and an extra sleeping bag, so we’re no longer sharing, and it’s soooo much better. Happy Heppy.
Anyway, I digress. I have some catching up to do.
After Queenstown we headed back onto the bus to Dunedin, the so called “Edinburgh” of New Zealand. I couldn’t really see the Scottish influence, but it’s due to the Scottish people who settled there that it got its name. Can you believe that it took the original settlers three months to get to New Zealand by boat? Mental. What if you got there and were like “oh I don’t really like it, can we go home?”
Our hostel in Dunedin was so lovely. Such a nice change from the shit hole we stayed in in Queenstown. It’s weird that you can never tell what a hostel will be like before you arrive. I never have high expectations. But this place was great – lots of space, big clean bathrooms, and Tom was delighted that they offered free breakfast including vegemite!
The weather was pretty rubbish – cold and wet. But we wandered the town, checked out the museum, bought camping supplies, then saw that cinema tickets were ten dollars (five quid) so booked tickets to see The Revenant that evening. Tom really wanted to go on a Brewery tour, but it was fully booked so he settled to go for a tasting session instead. As we were walking to the pub, we bumped into Max and Mathilde – the French couple that we worked and lived with for a few weeks in Hastings. They came for a drink with us and it was great to catch up. It felt so surreal to bump into people we knew!
The film was great, really harrowing, but a brilliant story. We were in Dunedin for less than 24 hours, but I felt we gave it a good go!
The next day we walked bloody miles to the bus depot to go to Omaru. After the bus we then we walked another hour with our backpacks on to find our hostel. Absolutely shattered we found the hostel, which was another nice one – lucky us. Then after a bit of food, a recharge and a good bash on the hostel piano/ukulele/guitar we walked back into town (we did well over our 10,000 steps that day!)
We found a brewery and Tom did another taster…
Well someone looks happy…
We then went to the beach to see the penguins. I won’t go into too much detail, because I know a certain someone who might be reading this (hi Mum!) might be very jealous. But we saw lots of tiny blue penguins coming up the beach to go to bed. They were so lovely! There were seals on the beach too, who barked at the penguins when they got too close and disrupted their beauty sleep. We were seated in stands in order to see the penguins and surrounded by a Chinese tour group who kept standing up so we couldn’t see. You can imagine how annoying this was… they also talked very loudly through the English commentary despite our being silent in the Mandarin section. After a few minutes of being British and not saying anything I’d decided I’d had enough and very loudly whispered “SIT DOWN AND SHUT UP!!!!!” (quiet enough to not startle the penguins but loud enough to get the point across.)
We were so charmed by the little penguins. After we left the colony, there were special penguin assistants in high vis jackets who stopped the traffic to let any straggler penguins cross the road. (Mum, I think this might be your dream job?) We then walked another hour back to the hostel.
(You couldn’t take photos in the colony, but I got this snap of the little guys crossing the road.)
The next day it was pissing it down and we had 5 hours to kill after check out time and before the bus, plus we had our huge bags so we couldn’t visit the shops. So what was the answer? Macdonalds. The only place where it’s acceptable to sit for five hours rinsing the free wifi and buying only two hot chocolates. We did manage to apply for our Australian visas whilst we were there. I’ve never spent so much time in Burger King and Macdonalds before this trip. It’s terrible, but cheap and the wifi is free. 😀
So I’ve got a bit of catching up to do. I’m blaming this on terrible wifi not laziness, but in truth it’s been a combination of the two.
After glacier country, we got back on the bus and headed to Wanaka. We had a really huge bus driver who could barely fit up the aisle of the coach. He kept leaving his microphone on and deep breathing/coughing into it for the entire journey. But for me, the highlight of the journey was when he did an emergency stop at a roundabout and exclaimed “crikey tits!”
Wanaka is a small town at the base of a big blue lake. There’s really not much to do there, and we’d booked three nights in the hostel. We were back to dorm rooms, all blokes (standard) but I was just delighted to have a bed to sleep in, and a lot of sleep to catch up on post-camping extravaganza. I’ve also discovered ear plugs. God send. The hostel was small, but so friendly, and we actually had a great time and met some really nice people.
Above is the most photographed tree in New Zealand – can you see why?
On our first day we did very little. Wandered the town and then did some shopping and cooking. On the way to the supermarket I had my eyes glued to a bookshop window (standard) and Tom suddenly spun round on the spot, staring at someone who’d just passed us. He said “Oh my god I think that was Richie McCaw!” A kiwi guy walking towards us confirmed “yep, that’s our Richie!”
For those of you who don’t know, McCaw was the captain of the All Blacks – taking the rugby team to victory last season, and possibly the biggest NZ celebrity. Typical kiwi style, he just wandered the streets, respectfully being left to his own business.
The next day was pretty much the same. In the evening we met up with Ernest, our lovely fruit thinning friend, who happened to be in Wanaka. When I went to hug him, I hadn’t realised that I’d dropped half an icecream down my front so I awkwardly covered him in chocolate which was embarrassing. It was great to catch up and see how he’s getting on. Ernest was staying at a backpacker’s hostel called Wanaka Bakpaka. Isn’t that just the best name ever?! I kept muttering it to myself “wanakabakpakawanakabakpaka”until I felt more crazy than usual.
The next day we tackled Mount Iron along with Fabian, who we’d met in the hostel. It wasn’t too much of a challenge – 45mins up hill but it was pretty hot so we worked up a bit of a sweat. Good views from the top too. Again, fairly chilled day as there is sod all to do there if you don’t have a car to see the area, and don’t fancy spending a small fortune in the restaurants.
The next day we had a long wait for the bus, but we spent it on the beach so that was gooood. And guess who was waiting to take us on the bus to Queenstown? Our favourite deep-breathing bus driver!
DISCLAIMER: No photos in this post due to rubbish wifi. Apologies.
After Abel Tasman, we continued our camping extravaganza with a trip to Westport. We only really went to Westport on the way to the glaciers because I had a strop and told Tom that I wasn’t happy doing a ten hour coach journey on a vehicle with no toilet.
So we jumped off the bus at Westport. It was a town that looked a bit like the Wild West. The best thing about Westport is that you don’t need to look before crossing the road because there’s NO ONE THERE. We plodded to our campsite, or rather, “holiday park,” which was a bit like redneck America. Oh well. There was a good barbeque area at least, so Tom was pleased. The weather was fine on the first night, but I didn’t sleep anyway. Thanks body.
We “awoke” to rain. Rain rain rain. Rain that lasted all day. As there was nothing to do in the town, we stayed put and dry in the TV room and had an internet day. By the time it came to going to bed, it had been raining none stop for well over twelve hours and showed no sign of stopping. We leapt over the puddles around our tent and tentatively stuck our heads through the door flap. It looked rather the same as outside; puddles everywhere, but with the addition of water running down the walls. Luckily we’d had the foresight to keep our valuables with us, so they were all okay, but everything else was pretty drenched. We tried to mop up the damage for a while, then decided it was hopeless, and went to see the manager to see if they had any cabins available that we could stay in.
They were all full, but the kind woman said “if it gets really bad, just go and sleep in the TV room.” We went back to the tent, and after a few minutes of discussing what constituted “really bad,” we made the decision to go inside. Everyone else on the site was sleeping in vans/cabins/their cars, except for a kiwi teenager, who joined our little sleepover. I muttered to Tom “if he is a snorer, I’ll kill him.” And guess what… He snored.
The next day, we were more than happy to pack away our completely sodden tent, and get back on the bus. Seven hours later (I caught up on a lot of sleep on board,) we arrived at the campsite by Franz Josef Glacier. We erected (hehe) the tent and left it out to dry, and then walked half an hour into town to go to the supermarket for some supplies. When we returned, we did some washing, which was a relief as I’d been in the same clothes for THREE DAYS and then went to bed.
That night was bloody perishing! I couldn’t sleep for the cold, any body part that came loose of our shared sleeping bag immediately went numb. Anyway. Let’s just say that I still wasn’t a camping convert. I was delighted to watch the sun come up through the tent wall, what a relief. We got booted up and headed out to do the Franz Josef Glacier valley walk.
For most people visiting New Zealand, this is 1.5hour round trip, but as we had to walk at least an hour to get to the carpark where the walk started, it was more of a day trip. We were quickly beginning to realise that we are in a big minority travelling by bus and foot. When we check in at most places, they ask for your car registration and then look at you like you’ve got two heads when you say you don’t have one. That sounds like a rant, but I actually really enjoyed extending the walk and taking more time to look at the beautiful scenery.
The mountains are huge, and jungle covered. We really enjoyed the walk to the carpark through the rainforest, listening to the crazy birdsong. I sometimes feel like I’m at home in the lakes, but then I see some kind of crazy tree that I’ve never seen before, or I’m stopped in my tracks transfixed by a weird bird. The path to the glacier was rocky, but rewarding when we got to the top. Seeing a glacier that is retreating feels special. I know that if I return to New Zealand it won’t look the same, or might not even be there at all.
In the afternoon we went to the “Glacier Hot Pools,” which we’d managed to book cheaply online. The three pools of different temperatures felt great after a long day’s walk, and it was a really relaxing treat! We returned to our campsite tired, and ready for a rest. Having hired some wool blankets I was feeling more positive, but alas, still frozen, so no sleep. Thank god for coffee!!
The next day we went on a kayak trip across Lake Mapourika at the base of the glacier. In doing this, we realised how lucky we’ve been having grown up in the Lake District or spending a lot of time in the lochs of Scotland. The lake seemed a bit small and poxy compared to Windermere/ Loch Goil. Tom was in charge of steering the two man canoe, and took great pleasure in deliberately crashing us into the other members of the group and then pretending to apologise profusely, which was absolutely hilarious at first but then got a bit awkward when people were getting pissed off with us. At one point we hit the side of a German couple and steered them completely the wrong way and nearly beached them. I was laughing so much, and it only got funnier the more pissed off they got. We saw a rare white heron, which was cool. Then we went on this little detour down a river track. When we had to turn to go back the way we came, we embarked on an Austin Powers style 30 point turn whilst everyone waited for us. I don’t think we were very popular…
We got a lift back to the town and waited for the bus. It was late. Tom checked his phone to discover we had a text: the bus was delayed due to a mechanical issue and would be an hour and 45 mins late. Bummer. Whilst we waited we enjoyed using the most hilarious public toilets: you press a button to open the door and then a recorded voice proclaims “welcome to the toilet! Door will automatically open in ten minutes!” and then some light piano jazz started playing. I’m glad there was a toilet in there because I probably would have wet myself laughing if there wasn’t.
We waited and waited for the bus, and then a bloke in an official looking uniform jumped out of his car saying “hey, are you heading to Fox Glacier? Need a ride?” – turns out he was a bus driver from another company, who when heading home after his shift always heads past the bus stop to see if anyone needs a lift. He was so kind, and dropped us directly at the campsite, which was a massive help. Everyone we’ve come across in New Zealand has been so friendly to us with our huge backpacks. 🙂
We pitched the tent, and then went to hire some kind of blanket from reception and were given a double duvet each! I was in heaven and actually slept well for the first time in over a week. It was so nice to finally be warm enough! Waking refreshed, we headed off to do the valley walk at Fox Glacier.
More stunning scenery that almost made it impossible to not look longingly after the people driving to the car park at the beginning of the walk. Fox Glacier had fewer people, and was actually even more impressive than Franz Josef. The final ascent was steep, and covered with warning signs saying “no stopping” due to the hazard of rockfalls. After our picnic at the top, we began the descent and came across a family surrounding the grandma, who had fallen and cut her head open. There was so much blood everywhere, all down her face and top. Luckily she was conscious! Tom legged it back up the hill, to where we’d seen a guide and sent her down to help. We then carried on our way because there wasn’t much we could do to help. Seeing the accident shook me up a bit. You always forget that an easy-seeming walk is often more dangerous than it looks, and we’re only flesh and blood after all. We returned to the campsite and watched Harry Potter on the telly, and ate chocolate which cheered me up!
So that was me done, I’d seen some of the most beautiful sights ever, survived six nights in a row of camping, and found myself almost looking forward to a dorm room!
After Picton, the intercity bus took us to our next destination: Nelson. I kept getting muddled between the two because they both sound like surnames.
We’d booked two beds in a dorm room (my favourite!) as things over here are starting to get really jam-packed over the post-Christmas period. This means that I’ve got a billion nights camping and dorm rooming before we leave NZ. Can’t complain too much because I’ve mastered the art of the power nap, and sleeping on the bus.
i really really like the South Island so far. For some reason the North Island feels very similar to the UK, but just with less people and more of the good scenery. The South feels much different. There are even less people, and the scenery is on a massive scale, it’s absolutely stunning and hard to put into words.
Anyway, I digress. Two nights in Nelson in a cool hostel. Millions of people, but there was a pool, and parked at the back of the pool was a huge vintage green bus. Inside was the TV room, and a big bookcase! Heaven! I asked Tom if when I win the Euromillions I could get a reading/TV bus for our garden, but then we figured out it’d probably be a bit cold. Oh well.
The hostel also kindly offered a free “vegetable soup” in the evenings. “Vegetable soup” is in inverted commas because it doesn’t deserve the proper title… We queued up dutifully, holding our bowls. Meanwhile, a box of bread was placed on the table, and I’ve never seen anything like it. A bun fight pretty much broke out. The “vegetable soup” was some unwashed, unpeeled raw potatoes chopped up in hot yellow water. The water swirled and separated into yellow powder and water, a bit like when you stir a muddy puddle. Basically, they’d put some potato in a pan, added water and an entire tub of curry powder then served it up. Inedible. We felt bad for wasting food so I suggested politely pouring it back in the pan, but in the end we had to just hide it haha.
The rest of time in Nelson was mainly spent preparing for our trek in the Abel Tasman National Park.
New Zealand has many of what they call “The Great Walks.” We’d already tackled one in the North Island – the Tongariro Alpine Crossing that we both absolutely loved, so we were eager to get our teeth into the Abel Tasman Coastal Track (ATCT)
The idea with the ATCT is that you take around four days to hike the whole coastline, stopping to camp or stay overnight in the huts along the route. Each campsite has a set number of spaces, and unfortunately we’d left it too late to book the whole route. Luckily the chap in the Wellington tourist info suggested we book two available nights in the campsite at the very top of the track and plan some walks around there. So what we did in the end was to get a shuttle bus to the start of the track, and then a water taxi to the last boat stop, hike three hours to the campsite. We’d then stay two nights, hike the area and then back down to the place where we were dropped off.
The water taxi was great up to Totornui, with stunning scenery: orange beaches and blue sea in front of huge green hillsides. We tried to pack as light as possible, but it wasn’t easy – we needed our tent, sleeping bag and mats, and enough food to last the trip. Special shout out to Thomas Copley for being an absolute angel and carrying the heavy gear whilst I was in charge of food and water!
The first day’s walk was absolutely beautiful. Mostly you are plodding up and down the forrest tracks, in the shade which worked well as it was a scorching day. The track then opens out onto the beaches, which make great lunch spots hehe. We walked pretty slowly as the gear was quite heavy and we were hot. Lots of folk overtook us, but I was happy to be slow and enjoy the scenery. It was so calm and peaceful.
We finally arrived at the camp ground and were happy to dump our bags. I was a bit apprehensive about the first night sleeping in the tent…. The hut at the Whariwharangi (far ree far rang gi) campsite was a house from the 1800s where a family lived off the land. It was pretty awesome because although there was a proper bog (phew!) and running filtered water, there was no electricity, which meant it felt like it was unchanged and it was really fun imagining the family strolling around in their Victorian clothes and shooting the wildlife.
I was originally gutted that we couldn’t stay in the hut, but when I went and looked inside, I was relieved we weren’t! There was some kind of bizarre bed situation – one really really wide bed where about ten people would sleep side by side…. my worst nightmare! Imagine waking up with a stranger’s head on your pillow… Eurgh.
Well we set up camp, and it was quite exciting. There were these weird birds everywhere called “weka” or as we referred to them as “veloceraptor bastards.” The walk so weirdly, like dinosaurs. They circle your tent looking for food and watched one try to get its entire beak around our water bottle. Very funny but irritating at the same time. One pecked my toe whilst I was sat on a picnic bench and I jumped about a foot in the air.
For tea we walked back to the idilic bench we had spotted on the way to the campiste. We had a Ruth Shepherd patented corned beef party. (Bread, corned beef and a sparkling beverage…. well we had luke warm water, but it was still good.)
We watched the sunset with the beach to ourselves, which I’ll never forget.
Then got into bed to be surrounded by the sound of SNORERS. I HATE PEOPLE WHO SNORE!!!!!!!! There was also an Israeli couple next to us who had no concept of whispering and just shouted at eachother all night. It was uncomfortable. I fell asleep and woke up what felt like every five minutes to move position because it was so uncomfortable. My hair was everywhere and I was freezing and the sleeping bag we decided to share was pure nylon so I was just sweating and the sleeping bag kept falling off and I was being eaten alive by some kind of biting insect and I needed a wee all night but didn’t want to get out of bed to go to the toilet. Then we were awoken by the dawn chorus of birds that sounded like we were in a zoo and then loads of bloody children started chasing each other round the tent. I overheard the man in the tent next to us saying “children are worse than dealing with ISIS” which really made me laugh. Anyway. Rant over. No sleep was had but it doesn’t matter because we were sleeping under the stars in paradise.
The next day we enjoyed a muesli bar breakfast and then headed off on a two hour walk to a different beach. More beautiful scenery and stunning weather. We had some more corned beef sandwiches for lunch and had a nap on the beach. I’m getting really good at this power-napping business now. Then we walked back to the campsite. After a little rest we decided to do another walk. One of my toes had a blister that surrounded the entire digit. After wrapping it up, we headed on a walk to “Separation Point.”
This was mildly hilarious because we walked for two hours to the point which was just a tiny cliff that had some plastic gannets on it and was playing a recording of gannet sounds…. We just looked at each-other.
We then went on to a cove called Mutton Cove which was actually home to a load of seals, not sheep. It was so cool seeing the seals. They were doing this weird thing where they go in the shallows and wave a flipper at you. I love how big and lumbering they are when out of the water, yet so graceful in the sea. We also saw a big fat one who was barking on a rock, and sounded like a huge dog.
We stomped back to the campsite, and Tom introduced me to his camping special – tinned ravioli, cold from the can, and surprisingly yummy! We got ready for bed and it started to piss it down. It rained all night but luckily this served to silence the birdies, and our stuff remained relatively dry. I was very impressed with our little 15 quid tent! We both slept better, and I felt a lot more human on waking the next day.
The next morning we packed up and began our walk back to the water taxi stop. I was sad to leave the park because it was an amazing experience. New Zealand is definitely one of the most beautiful places we’ve seen so far, and we both feel so lucky to be here. I felt so relaxed to have a few days off the grid and under the stars. I think it’s good for you, and, despite the camping bit, I do want to do it more!
Hello dear reader,
At the time of writing, I’m hiding from one of the biggest rainstorms I’ve ever seen in the TV room of our darling campsite. Unfortunately wifi only works on one device, and all my photos are on my iPhone, and I’m writing this on the iPad, so there will be no pictures to illustrate today’s episode. So instead I shall jazz it up with some interesting
And also some emogees
On Christmas Eve we rose early in Wellington to catch the 7.20am shuttle bus to the ferry terminal. After nearly two months we were leaving the North Island!
We were efficiently shoved onto the ferry and then off we jolly well headed across the Cook Straight. The trip was fairly uneventful, with some beautiful Norwegian style fjord scenery.
We were both still pretty sleep-deprived so did a bit of napping and treated ourselves to some chips and a beer/cider… it was nearly Christmas after all!
Before arriving at Picton, I’d mentally prepared myself for the worst. Everyone told us that all the shops would be closed, and spending Christmas on a campsite sounded pretty grim. In my head I was picturing our cabin to be a bed with walls, and imagined surviving on supernoodles due to the shops being shut.
Anyway. It was great! The area Picton sits in is called Marlborough Sounds, and it was absolutely stunning. Huge hills covered in gigantic greenery falling into the turquoise ocean.
We found our campsite, and settled into our little cabin. It was bigger than expected and it had a little decking area that caught the sun all afternoon and evening. Perfect for festive drinking!
Once we’d settled in, we went into Picton, which was a small but pleasant town. We decided to do our Christmas shopping, setting ourselves a ten quid limit. How refreshing! I know it’s terrible, but I took great pleasure in not needing to stress about Christmas presents this year!
After that, we did the Christmas food shop – mainly barbecue supplies, rum, and bacon and eggs for breakfast. Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without stuffing yourself silly, would it?! When we reached the checkout, we encountered what Tom now refers to as “The Fat Lady Who Ruined Christmas” – – a woman of the larger disposition who refused to take our driving licences as a form of ID despite it being Christmas Eve and my asking if Tom really looked like he was under 18 with the beard that he is currently sporting. Anyway. We stormed off back to the campsite and returned with the passports and all was well.
After our shopping extravaganza, we sat and played cards on the decking for a while and had some pasta for tea.
We woke up and it was Christmas!! There was a layer of snow all over the campsite, and I could see the footprints and tracks from Father Christmas’s entourage. ❄️❄️Only joking. It was about 25 degrees and I had factor 50 on all day. What a first! I opened my presents from Tom (a papau shell necklace and matching earrings and a puzzle book) and he opened mine (a bottle opener keyring shaped like a kiwi bird, and a bag of jelly “kiwi worm” sweets.)
The rest of the day was a blur of burgers with stuffing, chicken, salad, sweets, chocolate, mince pies, cider, beer and rum. Perfect. We put on our lovely santa hats too. It was so surreal to be chilling by the pool! A British family joined us and they were blasting some Christmas tunes by the poolside so that was really nice. (Given up on emojis now. Sorry.)
All in all, it was a lovely Christmas. I’m really pleased that we booked a cabin to have some time to ourselves. It was a Christmas that I’ll never forget, but at the same time it’s been one of the hardest days since we’ve been away because we both missed our lovely families like mad. That’s a good thing though. Imagine if we were like “well thank god we’ve got away from them at last!” Ha!
Stay tuned for the next episode, where we encounter the weka bird, watch TV in a vintage bus, and I try my hand at camping in the wilderness. ❤️❤️❤️