We're in lovely Franz Josef now and Jem's doing a blog about the wineries we've been to while we have spare time!
Our last day in Wellington, last Wednesday, was a great day and it's made us absolutely love this city. We got up early and walked along the the harbour's 'Writers Walk' reading random writers quotes along the way. We were so lucky because the sun was shining and we, fortunately, didn't get the usual 'windy welly' weather! Found a cool wine shop called Rumbles and met an Irish guy called Paul who advised us on vineyards to visit and bars in Wellington to check out. Walked through the main shopping area (Lambton Quay) to the cable car which chugs up the steep hill to Kelburn ($2.50 one way). At the top there's great views of the city and the stunning botanic gardens which we wandered around visiting the herb garden, lady Norwood Rose Garden, the Begonia House and the Henry Moore 'Inner Form' Sculpture. We had a picnic then walked to Parliament Buildings which includes the Beehive (shaped like it's name), Parliament Library and Parliament House, were we sat in the public gallery and watched a debat with the Prime Minister (there was also a Minister called Barnett which was funny) - this involved lots of shouting and heckerling!. From there we walked past Wellington Cathedral (New St Pauls), past the National Library to Old St Paul's Cathedral (built 1866) which has a very striking early English gothic timber design inside. From here walked past the Government Buildings, which is among the world's largest all wooden buildings, past Civic Square and the Town Hall to trendy Cuba Street which has lots of cool bars, cafes and shops. Past loads of buskers and saw some very funky Wellington artwork on our travels around the city.
On Thursday we caught the shuttle bus to the ferry terminal and caught the 3hr Interislander ferry across the Cook Strait to Picton in the South Island. Thankfully for us the crossing was calm because we have since met people who had a horrendous journey and couldn't even walk onboard without falling over!
The magic bus met us in Picton and we travelled to Nelson. The scenery was absolutely breathtaking and we instantly fell in love with the place. We past rolling hills, dramatic mountains, gorgeous lakes and vineyards galore. We arrived in Nelson, the sunshine capital of New Zealand, late afternoon and checked into the lovely Tasman Bay Backpackers. We were in a 4 bed dorm ($25 pp) with Rob and Tim and Lucy and Lee were in another dorm. At 8pm we all tucked into the 'free' delicious hot chocolate pudding and creamy ice-cream - forget the party hostels with us, all we need is free yummy food and we're happy! The free all you can eat brekkie with great museli and homemade bread also put a smile on our faces!
Friday we did a hike in Abel Tasman National Park. We got picked up at 7.30am and were driven to Kaiteriteri just outside the park. From here we got a very speedy water taxi to Torrent Bay which was great fun, and we started the 4hr walk back. Abel Tasman, New Zealand's smallest, but most popular, National park is renowned for its golden beaches, dramatic granite cliffs and lush rainforests. From Torrent bay we walked along an amazing coastal track past secluded bays, crystal clear water, took a side track to Cleopatra's Pool - a little waterfall and stream, walked along beautiful desserted beaches, through forests to Marahau. At the end we chilled at a really cool sculpture cafe and the got the bus back to Nelson. We went out to the local pub called the Sprig & Fern, with everyone from the hostel, only to discover that last orders was 10pm so off to town we went and finished the night with a 'pottle' (basically a pot) of chips!
Jem and I hired a car on Saturday with Lucy & Lee and checked out Nelson Market were we got loads of samples of local produce and then we explored the wineries around Nelson. First stop was Himmersfield in Upper Moutere were we met the winemaker, Beth, who was lovely and really chatty. She had lots of sheep and cute lambs wandering around. From there we went to Neudorf, tried to visit Rimu (recommended to us by Paul at Rumbles wine shop in Wellington) but it was closed, had lunch at the Naked Bun cafe in Mapua and then went to a couple of small wineries in the afternoon. I drove (and spat all the way!) and we ended the brilliant day with a trip to Tasman Brewery to sample 18 beers and ciders for free, poured straight from the vat. Met a great lad working there called Steve and went home with a 2 litre bottle of our preferred beer each, poured by ourselves, for 10 bucks and one for our mate Rob because he missed the day out (too drunk!)
On Sunday we were back on the magic bus travelling to Greymouth with our driver Scottie. We drove through Hope Saddle, crossed the picturesque Buller Gorge, one of the top ten drives in the world and very similar to the Great ocean Road, to the west Coast. We stopped at an amazing Seal Colony at Cape Foulwind, Tauranga and saw some very cute seal pups. Past dairy farmland which was getting it's land flipped so that the cows didn't have to stand in mud and instead had the clay surface on the top. We drove through Paparoa National Park, stopped at Te Miko Point and Irimahuwhero Lookout which means 'the place of the hanging red hair'. Well known to generations of maori travellers, the name came from the crimson rata flowers which cover the coast in the summertime. From here we had a good view of the West Coast region, also known as westland, and it's rugged, salt sprayed stretch of wild rocky beaches and bush clad hills sweeping up to towering icy peaks. It was such a clear day that in the distance we could see Aoraki/Mt Cook, which at 3755m is the highest peak in Australasia, and, next to it, Mt Tasman.
We also saw the Motokie Rocks, which look very similar to the Twelve Apostles, and lots of Nikau Palms along the roadside. We had a walk along the Truman Track which took about 15mins and took us down to the beach, through a rainforest with lots of native tress; Nikau, Rata and Rimu. Back on the bus we drove over the Porarari River and through the small settlement of Punakaihi, best known for Pancake Rocks & Blowholes, where we stopped to walk along the 15min loop walkway. Through the layering and weathering process known as Stylobedding, the limestone rocks at Dolomite Point have formed into what look like stacks of thin pancakes. Sometimes water surges into the caverns below the rocks and squirts out from impressive geyser like blowholes but unfortunately the water was too calm on the day we were there.
Greymouth is the largest town on the west coast - there's not much going on there. We stayed at a hostel called Neptune Backpackers which was cosy but old. The bonus for us was that it had baths so Lucy & I had a nice long soak (not together!)with our girlie mags while the lads went on a tour of Monteith's Brewery ($25 plus all you can eat Barbie).
On Monday we got the bus to Franz Josef and, on the way, stopped in Hokitika, the gateway to the South Westland World Heritage National Park, a small friendly town with supermarkets that are alot cheaper than Franz Josef apparently so we all did our food shopping there! next stop was the historic town of Ross to visit the Goldfields Heritage area to watch a lady called Trish demonstarte a technique called Gold Panning which has been used for many years in the area and involves a bowl with gravel in that you put in the stream that contains gold and it sieves the water and you're left with gold!
We arrived in the beautiful little town of Franz Josef in time for lunch, checked into Chateau Franz were we got a 5 bed dorm for our group and then I went for a walk to see the amazing snow covered mountains and to walk along Waiho River.
On Tuesday we did a hardcore full day hike on Franz Josef Glacier, which is a beautiful glacier, very close to the town, set within the frosty mountainous splendour of westland/Tai Poutini National Park. We did the hike with Franz Josef Glacier Guides and at $130 each it was abit expensive but worth every penny. We were out for about eight and a half hours and got kitted out in all the gear including boots and crampons. The scenery was truly stunning and we got to see amazing ice caves, waterfalls, blue ice and to squeeze through very narrow crevasses. You can see our photo's on this website. That night we chilled back at the hostel with a bottle of Himmersfield Chardonnay 2001 and the TV!
Wednesday was a day for chilling and we wanted to have a nice lie in after our long walk but instead got woken up at 8am by the fire alarm which also spoke in a very strange voice - not good! The rest of the day was spent doing laundry, on the internet and then watching free videos at the hostel.
Tomorrow we head to action packed Queenstown - can't wait!