Crossing the Cook Strait on a ferry I left the North Island to continue my journey around South Island, New Zealand.
Myself and another woman, Annette, decided that we wanted to go to Abel Tasman National Park so we stopped at Nelson for one night. Nelson is named after Admiral Horatio Nelson who defeated the French and Spanish in 1805 and is located on the eastern shores of Tasman Bay. As we there to visit the National Park we made Nelson our base so we didn’t do much else there.
Abel Tasman National Park is located at the north end of the South Island and is named after Abel Tasman who was the first European explorer to sight New Zealand in 1642. Annette and I planned to go for a hike to do some exploring so we went to Kaiteriteri, which is the gateway to the national park, and about one hour from Nelson. We met the guy who was going to take us on a water taxi to drop us off so we could walk back to the starting point, where he would pick us up again at the end of the trail.
We set off on the boat and on the way we passed a seal colony at Tonga Island and a bunch of sea-birds hanging out on “split apple” rock- so named because it looks like two halves of an apple have been split clean down the middle (Maori legend has it that it was the result of a fight between two brothers).
It was raining that day and the sea was really choppy so when we got dropped off I was promptly sick and didn’t feel so good. But the walk made me feel better. The walk started on a deserted beach where we picked up the coastal trail at the far end, and then made our way through the forest. During that season (July) there was nobody else about, so we had the place all to ourselves, which is kind of special. The trail climbs around headlands and lush forest with so many different species of trees, which are beautiful. It opens onto several gorgeous beaches and estuaries which show the diversity of the place and there are a few waterfalls on the way as well- being the winter season there was a lot of rainfall. It was a splendid way to pass a few hours.
Having only been in New Zealand for two weeks by this point I felt like I had seen and done loads and it wasn’t about to stop and the beauty of the magic bus is that you really can go where you want and see what you want to see.
So after leaving Nelson I arrived in Greymouth for a night but there was not much going on (it was just a pit stop really) so we went on a tour of Monteiths Brewery where we got to taste seven beers and then pour a pint of our favourite one.
We then arrived in Franz Josef where the coolest thing to do is to hike the Franz Josef Glacier. The glacier is 12 km long and located in Westland Tai Poutini National Park. We were supposed to be doing the glacier hike the day after we arrived but when we got up it was raining so hard that we decided to put it off for another day on the off chance that it would be a nice day. And we were glad we did because the following day was perfect for hiking- it was amazing- very cold but it was worth it, the views were stunning. We had to wear crampons on our boots as walking in normal boots just would not have worked. We were on the ice for a good 6-7 hours and it was tough going in places- squeezing
through tight ice passages and using our ice picks to haul ourselves a bit further up the glacier but completely worth the effort- in places the brilliant blue colours of the ice were incredible.
Next stop-Queenstown- the party place of the South Island. Don’t get me wrong you can party anywhere you want but Queenstown is renowned for being the liveliest place and the skiing is good in that area, so I was told. It was raining again but that didn’t dampen our spirits when, on the way, we were treated to more seal colonies and pancake rocks where we got off the bus to have a look. Pancake Rocks are located at Dolomite Point, near Punakaiki on the western coast of the South Island. In this area as well the sea explodes out of vertical blowholes at high tide and there is a walk-way where you can see the rocks up close-the rocks are limestone rocks created by pressure on hard and soft layers of marine creatures and plant sediment.
There is so much stuff to do in Queenstown so one of the days I was there I did a day trip to Milford Sound- it was absolutely stunning. It is a fjord in the south west of the South Island and has been judged as the world’s top travel destinations (2008 Travellers Choice Destinations Awards by Trip Advisor) and hailed to be New Zealand’s most famous tourist stop. We had a perfect day- still very cold but the sun was shining although it was very windy on the boat and I nearly got knocked off my feet. The boat leaves the port and makes it’s way through the fjord to the Tasman Sea and back again- it is surrounded by sheer rock faces rising to 1200 metres on both sides. We saw dolphins and seals and there are two permanent waterfalls- Lady Bowen Falls and Stirling Falls.
The last thing I did when I was in Queenstown was to go horse riding in Glenorchy, which is about 45 kilometres away. I love horse riding so when I found out that there were stables nearby I jumped at the chance. We rode out through the Rees Valley amidst a landscape of rocks and glacial fed rivers with beautiful mountains all around. The scenery is just incredible. In fact the mountains were the“misty mountains” from Lord of The Rings and the guide showed us where they had filmed the Isengard scenes. I rode for three hours in the morning, on a horse called Cecil, who was very well behaved. They dropped me off for lunch at the local cafe, and picked me up later to go for another two hour ride. Cecil was a bit friskier in the afternoon and kept bucking his hind legs, which took me completely by surprise and as such nearly had me off a couple of times but I managed to stay in the saddle. Afterwards I did wonder how come I could spend the day walking over a volcano and up a glacier and not ache in the slightest but five hours on a horse and it was a very different story. Nevertheless, it was a beautiful way to spend the day- just you, your horse and nature all around you.