South Island, New Zealand

The past few months since returning to Sydney from New Zealand has seen me working 40+ hours a week and spending my days off semi-comatose attempting to recover, which is my excuse for being such a bad blogger.  This will be my final installment on the NZ trip, about the ridiculously scenic South Island.

The problem with this leg of our trip was that our funds were now significantly decreased, and our timeframe allowed us barely a day in each location.  A tip for travellers: the South Island is far more sparsely populated than the North, and just packed full of breathtaking nature.  You cannot experience it fully in two weeks.  The majority of our days were spent simply driving from one destination to the next, as everything is very spread out, and there are no real motorways.  The photo above of Nelson Lake?  Taken in a 20 minute rest stop.

Our first overnight stop on the South Island was Kaiteriteri, voted one of the best beaches in New Zealand.  Kaiteriteri is also right next to Abel Tasman National Park, a fantastic spot for a day of sea-kayaking and hiking (or "tramping" as the Kiwis call it).  Unfortunately, our bus dropped us off just before sunset and we left the next morning with breakfast barely digested.  This was also one of the worst hostels I've ever stayed in: the wi-fi cost $5 for 24hrs access but didn't work in the rooms, only in public spaces; the kitchen was not big enough for the many guests; the rooms were incredibly cramped, four bunkbeds pushed up against the walls with not enough space in the middle for everyone's bags.  Worst of all, a girl in my dorm found a used condom in her bed.  New levels of grossness.

The South Island's West Coast is infamous for its rugged scenery, and gets an annual rate of rainfall that puts the UK to shame.  Rainforest creeps right up to the cliff face, which is particularly dramatic due to the strong current that batters the entire coast.  Punakaiki Pancake Rocks are so named because of the stack formations that remind you of a delicious breakfast.  The water slams into these formations with such force there are blowholes several meters above sea level where you can feel the ocean spray yourself, if you're into that kind of thing.

Our stop that night was Westport, an entirely unremarkable town except for being the least touristy place the Kiwi Experience bus stops off at.  It's a small mining town with a town centre so sleepy it seems sedated.  We had a pretty great barbecue and bonfire on the beach, where driftwood is so readily available it seems like the obvious thing to do.

Our next destination was Franz Josef Glacier, one of a few glaciers in the South Island but the most visited by tourists due to the little township that has sprung up to accommodate them.  I found myself accidentally hiking 20km from our hostel to the foot of the glacier, or as close as I could get anyway, on an early morning wander while most of my fellow travellers did the helihike down the ice face itself.  The glacier has receded so much over the past century or so it has retreated a mile back into the valley.  You can't get on the ice from the bottom either, due to the risk of rockfall, so the helicopter ride and ice descent package is the only way of actually getting on the glacier.  I was quite content wandering around and enjoying the views, but it's also important to be aware that the area has a very high annual precipitation, and you can't take the helicopter out on a cloudy day, so if you've limited time don't set your heart on the ice hike.

The Otago region was probably the most incredible part of the country.  The lakes and rivers were a colour I'd never seen before.  This picture of the Shotover River near Queensland?  That's entirely true to life.  This location is actually where many people stopped to do their bungee jump, although I think if you're plummeting headfirst towards water you're not too focused on the view.  The area around Queensland is a fantastic place to do some tramping though, if you have time.

Queenstown itself is apparently a lot like Cairns in Northern Queensland, Australia - one of those towns which is entirely populated by backpackers, living in the hostels and working in the bars.  It is a bloody gorgeous place, though.  The lake is crystal clear and sparkling azure, the mountains have a purple glow all throughout the is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country for a reason.  It is notorious among backpackers as the place you do your obligatory bungee jump, but personally I would have loved to get out on the water...if only we'd had more time.  Fergburger is a really famous spot, their burgers are enormous but pretty damn tasty - be aware though that the wait time is about 40 mins between ordering and getting your food.  As with many things on a tour bus, it's worth being aware that there's a feeling of "you have to do this for your trip to be complete", and New Zealand is enough of an experience in itself.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Jasmine, This space is very promising. I look forward to reading more from you :) I also want to let you know that I've nominated you for the Liebster award. You can go check it out here:
    Grace x