Safe the best Island for last!
Bijgewerkt: 14 jul 2019
After the crossing we arrived in Blenheim early in the afternoon. Blenheim is the the place to be for exploring the Marlborough wine region. Here are the most vineyards of New Zealand and you get the chance to visit the various wine estates to taste their award-winning wines. Tour operators offer a day tour of wine tasting including a bike for € 65, - . But you can also drive along the various estates (with a BOB of course, dear parents 😉) and then you have a day of wine tasting for only EUR 15, - p.p.
Perhaps our most amazing day in New Zealand was waiting for us today, swimming with dolphins. Kaikoura is THE ideal place for this. And not only dolphins, if you're lucky orcas and whales can be found here as well. The reason for this is that the Hikurangi Trench - an enormous deep-sea canyon - can be found just off the coast. It’s about 700 meters deep and these animals have an ideal place to find food and mate all year round.
At half past 5 in the morning the alarm went off, we looked outside and 'Yes' the weather was nice so we knew that the tour would not be cancelled. We left half an hour later, still sleep in our eyes, we toward the location where we would be briefed. After putting on our suits and a detailed briefing we were pushed into a bus with 10 other people and we drove to the harbour. Our skipper was waiting for us and brought us on board. Once on the water, we saw a beautiful sunrise, and while this was an amazing sight we had to focus on something else which we found after 10 minutes. You already guessed, but yes it where the ‘Dusky dolphins'. Our tour leader told us that we had to prepare to get in the water quickly. Suits well closed, hat on, flippers and snorkel set in check, we jumped into the water one after the other after hearing the horn of the boat. Even though the visibility was limited, it did not matter, because with bushes, the dolphins came swimming towards you from every angle just to say hi. Do not expect high fives or body dragons on the fin of the dolphin, because then you are pretty wrong. We are dealing with wild dolphins here and as soon as you try to get near them, the dolphin swims away quickly. But by making high tones, turning around and diving, you attract the dolphins. Especially the Nokia tone was very popular with the dolphins.
After 3 hours of making new friends, we drove to Nelson the same day. Here we kite-surfed the day after with our neighbours. Yes, they are still around and we love it.
Abel Tasman is a National Park named after Abel Tasman, a Dutch explorer of the VOC who first discovered New Zealand in 1642 and named the country after the province of Zeeland. He moored at the coast near Mohuo and came into contact with the Maori. The Maori, not knowing whether it was friend or foe, did their Haka (their greeting) and waited for a response. Abel, who had no idea what they meant, happily joined in the salute and fired his guns. The Maori misunderstood this, resulting in a bloodbath. After this incident the name of the bay has changed into Murderous Bay. This name is still used today.
But besides this history lesson it is also one of the 'great walks' and also the most beautiful hike of New Zealand. The route runs for 51 km along the coast with several campsites where you can stay overnight. The area can not only be explored on foot, but also by sea. And that is exactly what we have done.
Through the I-centre (a centre where you can get information about the area and book your trips) we booked a 3-day trip at Golden Bay kayaks. Not knowing what exactly we were waiting for, we were received the next day by the owner of Golden Bay kayaks,
Tony 'okaaaay' Chocolony. What a hero!
The way of dealing with people, the humour and his laidback attitude was such a relief. Even the 3-hour explanation of the route, instructions about the kayaks, low / high tide, weather forecast of the next three days and wind speeds passed by without a yawn. We were ready to take this three-day tour by sea.
In the three days of kayaking we have travelled 51 kilometres from Tata Beach (Golden Bay) to Marahau with SUPER good weather. Along the way you will encounter many seals, some of whom say hello. We slept on Totaranui and on Mosquito Bay, a secluded beach where you can’t come by car. We had confiscated a spot in front of the beach so we had the best view. With our neighbours chilling on the beach together, playing cards, and sipping wine, the days went by very fast.
Despite the nice weather we had to deal with strong winds, high waves and strong currents the last day. Fortunately, we had been able to practice the 2 days before and have passed through with flying colours. After this heavy trip and still with muscle pain from the previous days, we were glad that we could set foot on land again and then enjoy a well-deserved TUI burger.
After a night in Nelson Lakes (well worth stopping here, but not for sleeping unless you like sand bugs) we drove the next day towards Frans Josef. We took the 6 through Westport to Greymouth as this is one of the most beautiful routes in New Zealand. The route is so beautiful because of its location near the coast and the mountains in the background. On the way you can stop at the Pancake Rocks (A big rock party that has been split up in layers due to erosion, but I really have a different association with pancakes).
Everything comes to an end and unfortunately we have to say goodbye to our neighbours. We have done everything together for two weeks, what we found very pleasant and we are really, really, really going to miss them. We still have 7 days to go and they still have 3 weeks and can take it easy. We hope to meet these lovely people again and wish them lots of success and pleasure with their beautiful new challenge!
Our ride continued to Frans Josef, because Chris had a wish and that was to jump out of a plane (of course with parachute) and Frans Josef was the place to be as its called the most beautiful jump in the world. And I can tell you that I totally agree with this, because the view from 13,000 feet, with a fall speed of 220 km per hour is insane. If you jump here you will see mountains with snow and glaciers on one side and the sea on the other. Unfortunately, you are already down within 5 minutes, but what an experience. And that was also confirmed by my fellow passengers, of whom one man was 80 years old and had something like 'once in a lifetime'. Afterwards we celebrated our victory with an après-skydive drink to get to know your fellow jumpers a bit better. "Cheers!".
Last night was a short night ;-) as we couldn’t find a proper campsite and ended up at a DoC campsite. And how good is a morning waking up than with ... .. big machines that are making the ground clear (you thought for sure that I would say: the twittering of the birds, the flowing of the river and the bees buzzing). So, after this delicious alarm clock we drove to Wanaka where we are going to treat ourselves to something more luxurious.
The route to Wanaka takes about 5 hours, but this is not annoying when you are in awe every time you turn the corner. Immensely high mountains, huge blue rivers and jungles as far as the eye can see. It seems like you think you're in Jurassic Park, but the dinosaurs are exchanged for sweet, cute sheep.
Arriving in Wanaka we decide to spend more money on our next campsite, because a shower after 5 days is very welcome. In the afternoon we explore town and enjoy the beautiful weather. The town is really nice to stay in for a couple of days, but we have other plans. But before we leave town again we visit The Old Cinema as I really want to see the new Star Wars. The cinema has 2 rooms that are equipped with chill sofas, old cars converted into cinema seats and scenery pieces. In addition, it provides the most delicious hot 'chocolate cookies' that we have eaten so far.
After Wanaka and a day Queenstown we drove on to Milford Sounds which is a 5-hour drive away. Again, we decide to opt for a simple DOC campsite for € 7.50 per night. These campsites often have a very nice location, but no facilities. No (hot) shower, no kitchen ... only a toilet. But as I said, the location is superb - in the forest, looking out over a meadow with lots of purple and pink flowers and huge mountains in the background. I can think of worse place to be. Despite the spring, it’s very cold, so we decide to make a campfire. After having seen the necessary episodes of Ultimate Survival and Dual Survival, we know what we need to make the fire. Small and large branches are collected. To make the fire we use dry moss and a lighter (yes, it's true that Bear Grills does not have this in its standard equipment, but we can cheat a bit anyway). Despite our effort to keep the fire going, it does not want to lit well because of the wet wood. So, there is only one thing to keep us warm during the night and that is 5 layers of summer clothing.
After an hour's drive, we arrive in Milford Sounds. To our surprise, there is no village to be found just a port where boats are moored to travel the fjord of 16 kilometres long and 100 to 450 meters deep. Around you will find huge steep rocks of up to 1200 meters high. The highest point of the fjord is the Miter Peak, with a height of 1692 meters. It is unbelievable how high these rocks are and we only realize that when there are boats sailing along the fjords.
Milford Sounds is the wettest place of NZ with 182 days a year of rain ☹. The idea might not be fun to book a tour on these days, but because of the rain, huge waterfalls come down and thus ensures the ultimate experience in Milford Sounds.
After 2 hours we continue our trip to Queenstown to eat out and have a last drink with our neighbours (yes, they couldn’t say goodbye either) before heading to the Philippines.
On the way from Queenstown to Christchurch (our final destination) there is 1 highlight to see and that is Mount Cook. Mount Cook has a height of 3,725 meters and is therefore the highest mountain in NZ. The mountain is surrounded by several peaks above 3000 meters and various glaciers, such as the famous Tasman Glacier. You will also find the most beautiful lake (Lake Pukaki) of New Zealand because of their turquoise, blue colour. We have to occasionally squeeze each other's arm to realize that this is real. The contrast of the snowy mountains and glaciers with this bright blue lake is out of this world.
We settle down near Mount Cook as we want to make a hike the next. The campsite is a large car park with some amenities, but with a beautiful view over the mountain tops with snow. The next morning, we get up early and we are lucky as the weather is really nice to go for a hike. We took 3 hours and after our hike we leave to continue our journey to Christchurch.
It’s the oldest and largest city of New Zealand. In September 2011, this city was hit by two earthquakes with serious consequences that are still fully visible today. Especially in the centre of the city many (historic) buildings suffered considerable damage. But there is also optimism in the city and the city is slowly build to its former glory.
Did you know that it is customary in Christchurch to thank the bus driver when you get off? Everyone in Christchurch does it, from senior to student. And really full of enthusiasm! The bus driver himself usually responds with a friendly "cheers mate".
We have explored the city today, visited the Botanic Gardens and enjoyed the beautiful weather. On Christmas Eve, we spoil ourselves with all kinds of delicacies, which we eventually share with two other who help us prepare our food. The next morning, we make Christmas for a poor couple even more beautiful by giving our entire camping equipment (from approx. € 150) to them. Satisfied, we say goodbye to everybody and we leave for the airport.
Up to the Philippines to celebrate New Year. YIHAA !!