South Island, New Zealand
Dec 26, 2007
|The South Island was incredible. Every time we thought we had seen the most beautiful site possible, we turn a corner and there is something more fantastic.
When we entered the South Island from the ferry, we had about an hour to make it to this small town, Nelson where they were having a Saturday outdoor market. Frankki was always excited about market days, so we jammed to Nelson and made in time to walk quickly around the market and buy a couple of things. From there we headed on down the road toward the western coast. We drove through Westport, Punakaiki, Greymouth and on down to the Franz Joseph Glacier.
On the way there, we stopped at this roadside area where other campers were camping, had a nice little creek and run down picnic tables. I decided that it was time to break out the grill which we had paid extra for and grill our dinner. Well, the charcoal they had given us was useless and we had no type of lighter fluid or anything like that. So I gathered twigs, pine cones and tore apart a cardboard box left by folks who came before us. We finally got the burgers cooked, but it was at least a 2 hour venture and needless to say we were eating in the dark, but it was good!!
The glaciers were awesome. Frankki did a 3/4 day hike on the glacier, while I hike to it and around it. It was a good day for each of us. We then headed for Fox Glacier and checked that out and on to Queenstown.
On the way we stopped at one of my favorite campgrounds in Wanaka, right on this huge lake. It was such a great campground, I could have stayed for a couple of days. But no, we must head on to the next adventure, but not before we hiked a bit around the lake. Our next stop was this very cute old-time town, Arrowtown, where we found the best ice cream since Italy. We had to splurge and each of us get our own cone. We did a bit of shopping and then on to Queenstown.
As with most of the towns we were in, I did not enjoy the bigger town feel. But we did discover there, while sitting on a pub patio that the next day was Thanksgiving in New Zealand. We had not given that any thought whatsoever. So the next day we celebrated with a bowl of pumpkin soup which was Frankki's favorite find in the grocery stores of New Zealand.
From Queenstown we headed for the fiords, Milford Sound. The drive there was incredible. It has been raining, so there were waterfalls absolutely everywhere. It was overcast and cold and just the perfect weather to be driving through the mountains. We did several hikes along the way and stopped at this very old campground with a small souvenir store. I was smitten by all the old things there, including the "cottages" which were original from many years ago. I was wondering how they ever made it, but come to find out, they are busy all the time. People come up there to get away from it all.
The Sound was so wonderful. We went out on an early morning boat and loved it. The only thing missing was the sunshine, but it was great. Got to see a penguin, seals and again many waterfalls. While on the boat we found out that the old campground we had been at was the only place in the world that sold this jade stone that was found in the Sound and once it was all sold, there would not be anymore available. So of course, we had to go back to the campground and buy up a few necklaces.
Then we headed further south for Invercargill. We saw all kinds a great sites and sights along the way. We did not stop here, but headed on for Dunedin. Here we sat in this building, like a camouflaged duck blind and watched for penguins to come ashore. Once a couple from Maine joined us, it got a lot easier to sit there because they were great talkers and shared their bottle of wine that they had brought with them. We found another great campground, in Moeraki right on the water that I loved. This time I talked Frankki in staying an extra night.
Little did I know that she had these plans miles away for my birthday. So the next day we drove all day so we could get to Kaikoura. When we got there we found a place to camp and Frankki kept saying we needed to get to sleep early because we had to get up early to meed some new friends. We got up at 5:30 AM and when we got to our destination I found that, for my birthday, I was going to swim with the dolphins. I was so excited. We suited up and headed for the boat. The bad news was that the water was very rough, the boats almost did not go out. When we got to our swimming place, as soon as the boat stopped my stomach went up into my throat. I did get into the very cold water (the captain just said, the water is cold, it is not tropical water, you will get used to it) and the water is so rough I am bobbing around out there trying to find a dolphin, while fighting off the seasickness. Frankki comes over and encourages me to make sounds to attract the dolphins - they were pretty sick sounds, but I did get about 5 of them to swim around me. It was pretty amazing. We got out of the boat and headed to another spot. When we got there, there were so many dolphins, I wanted so badly to get back into the water, but I just couldn't. When I looked around the boat, I realized that over half of the people were still on board with their own person buckets, just like me. Frankki said the dolphins were so incredible, she was looking them in the eye and swimming circles with them. When we got back tot he van, I immediately went to sleep, to get rid of the awful feeling. The consensus was that I was not meant to swim with the marine life on this trip. I was SO disappointed.
As we were driving out of town, Frankki said she had one more idea for my birthday, so we headed for Hanmer Springs and spent the afternoon going from hot to hotter in thermal pools. It was in a ski town, the weather was cloudy and cold, just the perfect weather for sitting round in outdoor hot tubs. Once we were all relaxed, we headed for Christchurch, out last stop with the van.
Christchurch was interesting, although we were only there for a few hours. We followed our pattern and decided not to spend a lot of time in the larger city. From Christchurch we flew to Auckland and spent the night there. We decided to go out for a really nice dinner along the water. We ended up meeting some business men and went into the late night talking and drinking with them. It was very interesting hearing all the local conversations.
The trip was so incredible. I still can't believe that I actually did all this. The best news of all the trip is that Frankki and I are still speaking and that our relationship has deepened to a new level that is rewarding for each of us.
Alright, this really is a highlight of the South Island, there is so much in between all these stops, so many stories and sights. We will have to get together in person to finish the stories. Thanks everyone for following along with our journey through my blog. It has meant a lot knowing that all of you were traveling along with me.