Yet again, this blog is late! I'm very sorry! The Internet bandwidth in NZ is particularly narrow so we regularly have a cap of 200mb per hotel stay; there's not much you can achieve with such a small amount of wifi usage available to you.
Our first stop after arriving on South Island was Punakaiki where we were wanting to see the pancake rocks. True to MacLeod form, it was pouring with rain and freezing cold by the time we arrived at our hostel. This was not the summer we signed up for! However, our hostel turned out to be in the midst of jungle foliage and we had our own tiny cabin which, with the rain beating down on the roof, turned out to be quite romantic. Battling against the fog and mist the next morning, we went to see the pancake rocks which, even though I'm no geologist, were pretty impressive. The massive waves crashed into the coves beneath us, sending sprays skyward through the funnels in the rocks.
We had decided to head out of Punakaiki pretty quickly (if ever there were a definition of a one horse town, Punakaiki would be it!) and headed to Fox Glacier where, again, the terrible weather unfortunately scuppered our plans! We got some lovely sunshine on our first evening, having arrived around 7.30pm, and made the most of it by heading to Lake Matheson and going for a delicious dinner in their “cafe” before heading out to do the 1.5 hour walk around the lake itself. It was perfect as, due to sunset being just around the corner, there were fewer people to share the track with and the light was beautiful.
Sadly, our plan to go on a helihike onto the glacier itself the next morning was well and truly ruined by the fog pouring off the mountain and the previous night's rockslide. All flights were cancelled! We, instead, trudged up the walking path in the rain so we could see the glacier from a distance of about 200m. Not exactly how we'd imagined seeing such a spectacle but interesting nonetheless. I was proud enough to have hauled myself up there…I don't like climbing hills at the best of time! It did all mean that we had a perfect excuse to get into our warmest, comfiest clothes after drying off and watch a film in our room with the bottle of wine I'd bought in Melbourne at the wineries!
After Fox Glacier, we headed down to Queenstown and were treated to the most spectacular drive either of us has ever been on! The views were breathtaking, especially as we headed between Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea. It was impossible to know where to look as, everytime you turned your head, you were greeted with another gorgeous view!
Queenstown itself was no disappointment either! Our accommodation, even though it was a holiday park and a 10/15 minute drive out if town was great! So comfortable and clean. We also loved the alpine town feeling of Queenstown when we went in for dinner. I was estatic to see so many restaurants…including sushi!! My favourite! We had a few days in Queenstown before we would be heading to Te Anau and then returning to Queenstown afterward. Therefore, we squeezed in a few thrill seeking activities….including the Shotover Canyon Swing which Alex convinced me to do. I. Was. Terrified. I'd suggest you google it to see why! It involved stepping off a ledge, free falling for 60m and the swinging across a canyon for 200m. I was by far the most scared out of the group and, as Alex and I were going to do the jump together, in a tandem, we had to go last so I had lots of time to get even more nervous! Finally it was our turn and, with horror (on my part), Alex and I took a step off the ledge into the abyss below. I screamed all the way down! I'm very glad to have done it but I can guarantee that I will never do anything like that ever again!
Alex doesn't have such qualms with throwing himself off ledges…the day after our Canyon Swing, he did The Ledge bungy and he's intending to The Nevis bungy in a few days!
After a few days in Queenstown, we drove down to Te Anau in order to be “nearer” to Milford Sound. In fact, Queenstown is considerably nearer but there's a pesky range of humongous mountains in the way! Instead, most people drive the 2.5 hours down to Te Anau and stay there before doing the next 2 hour drive to Milford Sound. Some nutters get coach tours from Queenstown, which include a 4 hour journey each way!
We drove ourselves down to the ferry terminal and, during the long journey, saw very little as, once again, the fog had descended. At one point we could barely see 10 feet in front of our car! However, by the time we boarded our boat for the tour, the sun was cautiously making its way through the clouds and, by the time we were docking again at the end, there was brilliant sunshine (albeit still very cold when the boat was going full pelt!). Milford Sound was absolutely beautiful and awe inspiring. It was pretty impressive to realise that where we were sitting on the boat would have been thousands of feet under the ice 20,000 years ago. We were lucky enough to have a pod of dolphins come and play at the front of our boat as we sped along and, even to Alex who sees dolphins regularly at work, they were impressive…they were huge! Apparently the sharks that can be found in the area are scared of them as they are so large.
My favourite part of our three night stay at Te Anau was that evening when we went to see the glow worms! It was a truly magical experience and even the warning to keep you mouth closed as you gaze at them (in case one falls off the cave roof and into your mouth!) didn't make the experience any less lovely!
After the success of our Milford Sound trip, we decided to also go on a Doubtful Sound trip. Little did we know that part of the trip included the worlds most boring visit to an underground power station. It was interminable. It was so dull that it became funny! Alex and I regressed into silly giggly school children and I'm sure we irritated the other people on the trip (who all appeared to have at least one foot in the grave already! Blue rinses all round!). Despite this exceedingly beige addition to the trip we actually enjoyed the day as, once again, we got to see some very impressive fiords. The coach stopped at a breathtaking viewpoint and this is one of the (many) pictures we took:
We have just returned back to Queenstown for three further nights and are frantically trying to cram all the activities we want to do into the limited time we have. Sadly it's almost time for Alex to go back to the boat…we need to be in Christchurch by the 1st Feb to drop our hire car off.
Hopefully I'll have good enough internet to post promptly this upcoming week!