New Zealand Down South

From Christchurch we popped to Akaroa for a little hike. This is one of those walks that you go on, hate for a bit but then love it. The ones where you were really under prepared and nature makes you realise how unfit you are. No photo can do justice to the calf pain we both felt, from what we will describe as sheer vertical climb (ok, maybe just a steep gradient). We didn’t see another soul on this 5 hour journey as we walked above the clouds. We found an emergency sleep shelter incase the weather turned bad. Luckily we were prepared and had brought emergency supplies, like our camera and a phone with no signal.

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Totally worth the view from the top… We are sure it’s spectacular on a clear day.

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Once we had recovered from this the next day we headed to Lake Tekapo to see the very famous Church of the Good Shepherd. This lake is just spectacular and you could spend a few days doing different walks around it. Even in the off-season there is literally bus loads of people getting dropped off to come and get a photo. This place is set on an international dark sky reserve. Which we had never heard of until travelling. There are dedicated areas in different countries that aim to have minimal light pollution. The night-time shots you can get of this building with the stars look incredible, but unfortunately we chose a cloudy night. Boring fact alert “The foundation stone for this church was laid by HRH the Duke of Gloucester, on January 15 1935.”

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We parked up at another lake near by in hopes of a clear night, but just enjoyed this view instead. We even set the alarm for 2 and 3am in hopes the cloud had budged so we could do some star gazing, but no luck. We would have definitely stayed longer here if we had more time. This place was just beautiful and also it’s free to camp here and they have great facilities. Definitely one of the best rooms with a view.

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One of the interesting things (for Stu) about New Zealand was the massive campaign to reduce road accidents. Huge posters of accidents and graphic adverts. They also put posters of the location and causes of all the road traffic collisions in public areas like toilets, to try and get people to slow down and not drive while intoxicated. Which is what we see at home, but their death rate is far higher compared to population. The roads are very windy and with the drastic climate changes can keep you on your toes.

Dunedin was next on our places to visit as we worked our way further south. Mind blowing fact… Dunedin is the farthest city in the world from London. It is very populated and has loads of history and nature to explore. They have a viewing platform which they have built above the nests of some Blue Penguins. It’s part of the Royal Albatros Centre which was worth a look around and learnt loads more about these wonderful birds. We opted to skip the viewing deck since we had read you can be lucky spotting penguins elsewhere without having to pay.

Dunedin has a graffiti walking tour which we did and it’s perfectly set up with loads of cafe’s and chocolate shops along the way. So what was a free activity to start with definitely did not end that way.

New Zealand radio is probably one of the funniest, they rant about the most random things and generally don’t care. This is where we heard about Dump the Trump beer which is brilliantly named and surprisingly tasty. We managed to find some and show our support. “This beer will build a wall of hops around your taste buds and make Mexico pay for it.”

Our very frosty route to Mildford Sounds, the drive there is just as impressive. You have to drive through a tunnel through the mountain. We got to meet the Kea Parrot who are very clever and extremely naughty. Unfortunately there are lots of bad tourists feeding them despite all the signs saying not to. They wait at the traffic lights knowing cars will stop there for an oportunity to get food. There are loads at the main car park and they are known to break into camper vans to raid the cupboards. They are super cute and hilarious.

We took a ferry cruise of Milford Sounds and it is just spectacular. This place is just so vast and forms just a small part of the Fiordland National Park. Shout out to the four women we made friends with, who were knocking back the wines and taking a plane back to Queenstown!

Queenstown is your typical ski town and had a winter festival on while we were there. It was getting super cold at night here so we opted for a paid campsite with electricity so we could have the luxury of a heater and a hot shower. We witnessed a guy bungee jump out of a helicopter and there were people parasailing around all the time. They even have a frisbee golf course set up.

We stopped and donated to the New Zealand Breast Cancer foundation. You are just driving along the road and you can see this huge fence full of Bras, so it’s hard not to miss this spot and stop to see what it is all about. Great idea to raise awareness and get donations.

Did someone say freshly baked interval cookies?! While we were at Lake Wanaka we heard about this cinema that had big comfy seats and had an interval on every film. This was so good so you could go outside and top up on all your snacks and get freshly baked cookies. After the film we headed down to the lake to enjoy this beautiful view.

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Lake Hawea lookout

Thundercreek Falls.

We never thought we would need to use the snow chains but thankfully we had them. At least everything is done properly here with the snow. You’re warned well in advance when you need to get them on. It was just a row of tourist campers and people trying to get their snow chains on. This is when you know who can build an IKEA wardrobe and who can not. Loads of people didn’t even have the instructions so they were stuck from the start. So many people had chains coming off their wheels going up in the snow. Thankfully Pam held together and got us there safely.

This is where we can see Emma not warning me about the massive wave coming back in. The walk back was so cold and wet and never knew you could chaff that bad.

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We enjoyed most of the sunset and were just about to leave, it’s about a 40 min walk through the woods to get back to Pam. This was the closest photo of the Fiordland Crested Penguins we could get and feel super lucky to have just got the chance to see them in the wild. We had passed people on the way to the beach as it would be nearly dark by the time they made it back. They hadn’t seen any penguins, which was expected as it was slightly too early in the season for them. We carried on anyway just to see the beach. It was beautiful, deserted, cold and just coming into sunset. We saw something super tiny in the distance moving. We ran back to the closest point, and there was two Fiordland Crested Penguins in the wild!

Next stop to the Glaciers…

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