Addition to the last post: This is an impression of one type of landscape you see a lot when driving through New Zealand (taken out of a car, sry for quality :P ), in this case between Dunedin and Invercargill.
Those grass areas are all man-made, mainly for sheep and dairy-farming. Of course there are other types as well, like introduced forest (for example from Europe) and native New Zealand bush (pics later).
Sparky’s was the only place on the South Island we stayed at for two nights. On our second day we did a day trip along the scenic Catlins Coast.
Sea Lions :)
We were strolling along the coast for a bit when we suddenly heard Alison shouting “Come over here, quick!”. At first we thought something happened to here so we rushed over there… but it turned out she just wanted us to see this:
At that very moment we couldn’t decide if that was a tiny adult fur seal or a baby sea-lion. We were a little afraid the two big sea lions on the pictures before could be the parents :P But when you look at the sign at first picture you can easily see it must be a fur seal, probably a fur seal teen.
Slope Point (sort of)
Next big stop: the most southern point of the South Island (not of New Zealand though, because of Steward Island).
This is me standing at standing somewhere near the southernmost point (the actual point is called Slope Point):
Who can spot the seals in this one?
the lighthouse and the “nuggets”
The next day we got up early to reach Queenstown in time for Alison’s and Elysia’s canyon swing (basically a big-ass swing in a canyon ^^). Queenstown is a really nice and also pretty expensive city at lake Wakatipu. Someone compared it to St. Moritz in Switzerland, because it is expensive, a lot of rich people live there and also a lot of young people party there. Here are a few impressions of the road along the lake up to Queenstown:
After we checked in at the YHA Lakefront, Elysia and Alison went for their swing, while Susi and me explored the town and the surroundings by car.
Gondola and view on Queenstown:
We also tried to visit various spots around Queenstown where scenes for Lord of the Rings where filmed. We couldn’t reach all of them (due to private land (various scenes/Rohan) or multiple hour walk with no signs where exactly the spot is (Furt des Bruinen)), but here is the river Anduin:
And here is the spot where Frodo and Sam watched the Oliphants:
Just imagine this would be Frodo ^^ (and there are Oliphants down in the valley)
The next morning we had to get up reeeeally early to catch the pickup bus for the Milford Sound cruise. The drive to Milford Sound was quite long and we stopped several times for photos:
During one stop some Keas joined us and one immediately tried to eat parts of the bus door.
And now the sound (which is actually a Fjord, not a sound) itself:
Oh yeah, we saw dolphins, seals and penguins during the cruise :)
So much for today ;)
PS: Later that day in a bar I discovered that tonic water emits a blue-ish glow when exposed to UV-light :D How cool is that, a glowing drink :)
Okay, all my exams are done and so are the excuses for procrastinating telling you about the South Island trip.
At the end of August we had a two week mid-term break, a perfect opportunity to explore the South Island. So Alison, Elysia, Susi and me booked a flight to Christchurch to start an almost two week road trip around the South Island.
During the flight we had an awesome view on the cloud-covered New Zealand, which I tried and failed to photograph (I had an aisle seat).
Luckily Elysia had a window seat and managed to take better pictures:
After arriving in Christchurch we picked up our rental car, it was a Nissan Sunny like we had for the Coromandel trip, but this time a better version with more power :)
After grocery shopping we left Christchurch for our first hostel, the YHA at Lake Tekapo. Unfortunately it was already dark when we arrived there, but after dinner we decided to to check out the lake nevertheless. It was a clear night and we were far away from bigger cities and their light pollution, so heaps of stars were visible. I tried to capture that with my camera, but it didn’t work :/
Before we went to bed we decided to get up early and watch the sunrise at the lake. However I changed my mind about that in the middle of the night, because I couldn’t sleep and wanted to get at least some sleep. I didn’t realize how big a mistake that was until the girls showed me this pictures (by Alison) when I finally got up:
The next picture (also by Alison) shows the awesome location of the hostel right at the lake
After breakfast we made our way to the Mount Cook National Park. Here are a few impressions from the drive:
On our way we encountered some unlucky guys who broke down with their car who signalled us to stop. I’m no car mechanic, but I got a rough idea how the stuff under the hood works, so I figured it can’t hurt to take a look. We quickly realized that the aged Toyota (aren’t they supposed to be among the most reliable cars in the world?) most likely needs to be towed away. The car was not only leaking quite a lot oil, but also loosing cooling water at an alarming rate, coming somewhere from the radiator. So the only thing we could do is provide those guys with the number of AA (the local automobile club) and continue driving. Funny enough we met the same guys again later at the Franz Joseph glacier and they told us the AA discovered the radiator exploded and the car can’t be fixed at a reasonable price. They were on a rental now :P
This experience made me rethink the plan of buying a car for my travel time here, which still was somewhere in the back of my head. Although you can’t expect much from a 800 $NZ car (that’s about 500 EUR), the seller had presented them a certificate that the car has been checked and found okay.
Mount Cook National Park
We eventually arrived at a car park in the national park and went on a trail into the park.
Of course we didn’t get to the top (or even close to the mountain itself) of Mount Cook, since it is 3,754 metres high (according to Wikipedia :P) and New Zealand’s highest mountain. If I’m not mistaken the last picture shows the peak of Mt Cook.
Spotting a seal
After the walk we headed south to Dunedin. On the way we stopped at a lookout spot at the coast (thanks to Alison’s awesome atlas, where stuff like that is marked in). Besides the pretty coast line we also saw a seal! :) Just hanging out there, mostly ignoring us… and later I discovered that the seal was visible in plenty of landscape photos I took before we even noticed it :P We were pretty happy about our sighting… how often do you encounter a wild seal!? Well, as it turned out later, more often than you think… at least in New Zealand. We literally saw hundreds of seals later on our trip :P
So much for the first two days of the trip. Before I end I want to mention those things:
We saw them on farmland all over the South Island, as I understand they are for watering purposes… that really surprised me. New Zealand is a widely green country with a lot of rain… why do they need watering? As far as I know farmland watering is not widespread in Germany, which is kind of similar climate-wise.
PS: I finally found a good picture for the header… but it didn’t quite work out as I thought –.- Will fix it later…
Being on my second road trip now (I actually wrote this on the trip two weeks ago) I realize I haven’t written about my first (small) road trip. At the second weekend of August Elysia, Nathan, Dan and me rented a car to spent the weekend in the area of Coromandel, which is on the east coast, about a two hour drive from Auckland.
We started early Saturday and stopped for various scenic places, like a waterfall (where I did a lot of nice photos) and some old trees (which were kind of disappointing). In the afternoon we arrived at our hostel, which turned out to be a really nice place (and only 25$/night) less than 100m away from the ocean. We did BBQ for dinner and went to a local bar later in the evening where a live band was playing. On a side note: as Elysia even mentioned in her own blog, Dan and me lost 3 rounds of pool in a row against team Canada (Elysia and Nathan) :P We’ll practice and beat them sometime!
We ended the day by sitting on the beach and enjoying the ocean for a while. The next morning we visited a place called Cathedral Cove, which was approximately a 30min hike away from the parking lot. The Cove turned out to be less interesting than I thought, but we spent a long time at the “Stingray Bay” which we passed on our way. It is a beautiful little bay with a beach, where we (especially Nathan and me) took a “shit ton” (an expression I caught up from Alison) of photos.
Around midday we proceeded to the “hot water beach”, an interesting geothermal phenomena. Basically there is a really hot rock underneath the beach and when you dig a hole in the sand on the right place, it fills with water from the ocean which gets warm pretty fast. In other words: you can dig your own hot pool! That was really cool… although the bottom of our pool was so hot that we had to be careful to not burn our selfs! After a while our hot pool experience was ended by sudden rain and we were glad to be dry and back in the car, driving back to Auckland.
Oh yeah, I forget to mention, I was driving… a white Nissan Sunny with way to little power (I’m pretty sure it was less than 50 horse power). I was quite excited about finally driving in New Zealand and also a little scared about driving on the “wrong” side. While my driving was fine (it turned out to be easier than I thought to drive on the left side) on the way to Coromandel and on the way back until right before Auckland, I failed embarrassingly while driving back into the city. Although I keep telling myself that it’s normal to mess up a little when driving in the dark in a big city and on the “wrong” side of the road, there is no excuse for missing the exit (Elysia still makes fun of me for not passing the straight line to make the exit… I just thought it’s better to refrain from my bad German driving habits on my first NZ drive :P), driving on a bus lane and turning into the opposite direction lane at an intersection -.- Nevertheless, we arrived safely at our apartment and returned a quite dirty, but undamaged car at the rental place.
Another word about driving in New Zealand: we drove on so called gravel roads, featuring varying amounts of gravel and mud (that’s why our car was so dirty). I’m pretty sure most people in Germany would turn around when they would end up on such a road, because there is a good chance you have done something wrong then :P Anyway, here it seems to be a normal thing. We were glad though that we payed the extra 2$/day for tire and windshield insurance.
Sorry for the amount of text… and for the delay… I hope I’ll get up the post(s) on the South Island trip sooner.
And now: enjoy the pictures: