The ferry journey over to the South Island was thankfully calm as we had been warned it would be rough, rough, rough as the Tasmin sea was very unforgiving. This sailing is said to be the most scenic short cruise in the world. We missed the dullest part of the trip as we decided to watch a film on board instead of braving the wind and cold out on deck. We did get ourselves outside as we entered in to the sounds as we saw our first glimpses of the south island.
Picton, the town in which the ferry docks looked truly stunning as we approached. The clear blue sea and the white houses both reflexing the sun that had decided to come and pay us a visit bought a smile to both our faces. After finding the campsite we booked a boat transfer for the next morning so we could walk part of The Queen Charlotte Track. This track is said to be one of the worlds top ten walks.
Early the next morning in the howling wind and rain we got on board our boat. Our first stop was to a bird sanctuary. We got close up and personal with baby penguins and they are really cute.
After the island we got picked up by another boat which took us over to the start of our walk. With the boat lurching first right then left we tried to hold onto our coffees without pouring them all over. We were dropped off for a quick 10 minute look at the point in which captain Cook first docked in New Zealand before we were back on the boat for another 30 minute rollercoaster ride to the walks starting point.
The walk was excellent with some great views down to Marlborough Sound. After a good 11 mile walk of which most of it seemed to be through muddy rivers or up the steepest hills we caught the boat ride back. We felt we had earned our fish and chips.
Our next stop was the great Abel Tasman National Park. There is a 4 day walk which is one of the best in the world but as time was limited we opted to do part of it over the course of a day. The coast is truly stunning and is also a sanctuary for seals. This walk again involved us both getting wet feet as you trudge through gallons of mud.
From Abel Tasman we made our way to Westport via Buller Gorge. Buller Gorge was fun and Andrew B decided to have a go at a flying fox which is basically being attached to a wire and flying over the canyon. It's like a bungee jump without the jumping. Great fun but over far to quickly.
Westport was a dull kind of place so we only spent the one night and soon made our way to Greymouth. Greymouth was great fun and although the town is a little industrial they have their fair share of stunning coastal scenery for visitors to explore. This time, we decided we would explore with a little help and went quad biking. After a nervous start we both got well into it, the mud, rivers and steep climbs all became easy as we whizzed along the tracks. It was great fun and it is something we are hoping to do again.
We also toured the local brewery which was very frustrating for Andrew B trying to balance all the samples with driving! We had seen the most stunning scenery of our lives but we keep being told that the best was still yet to come. We departed and made our way to the next stop which was the small town of Franz Josef.
The mountains soon started getting higher and more stunning. Franz Josef is home to one of the fastest moving glaciers in the world. The walk to it was stunning as we made our way down a dry river bed. Waterfalls were tumbling left and right off the mountains and we didn't know where to look first, the glacier was an awesome sight from a distance but close up was something different altogether and words can't really describe how stunning it was. The ice is as blue as the bluest blue it really was a complete spectacle.
Before leaving Franz Josef we had our first serious encounter with the devils spawn, commonly known as the sand fly. It would seem these interesting creatures really like campervans as it is a haven of no wind and fresh blood. Once bitten never forgotten is going to be our new motto.
We fully explored the region and then made our way to Wanaka. Again another stunning place. We tried to make our way to the Rob Roy Glacier in the campervan, but, after battling a bumpy gravel road, a thousand sheep, a fjord, we got stumped at the subsided road. The only way was through the river and we weren't prepared to risk losing the campervan in the fast flowing waters. Instead we turned round and spent a great couple of hours at puzzle world. After getting lost many times in the maze we made our way to the illusion room which is kind of hard to describe. The room has been built so things that look like their going up when they are actually going down. You felt kind of drunk walking around as your weight wasn't quite where you though it would be. It was great fun letting go of balls and apparently see them roll up hill. In the end we both felt really travel sick and had to try and get out, which was easier said than done. Thankfully they had nice ice creams for us to indulge in to get over the experience.
After Wanaka we headed to Queenstown. The drive there was awesome and we drove on the highest road in New Zealand. The view from the top of the mountain down to Queensland made you dizzy and you felt as though you were going to drive off the top.
Queenstown which is described as the party trill capital of New Zealand was not only fun but so much more stunning then we thought it was going to be. There are so many things you can do here from bungee, to white water rafting, river cruises, jet boats, sky driving etc and its all surrounded by the stunning Southern Alps.
As this was the final luge track we would come across on our trip it was time to do it all over again and with the scores level the race really was one. The weather was fine and the carts were prepped and ready to go. After the first 5 runs of the day Andrew B was leading the days racing 3 - 2 making the totals so far 7 - 6 in his favour. After a quick lunch stop we were back out on to the track and this time it really was do or die. We set of going quicker than ever no bothering with breaks as they just slow you down and to slow meant to lose which was something neither of us wanted to consider. Andrew B had his cart airborne on a number of occasions and no one else on the tracks at the time had a hope of coming anywhere near us. We came near to some major crashes as we blocked and swerved to block each other, as our straight line speed was similar this meant the corners would be the key to victory. As the chequered flag was passed for the last time the results were in, we had a clear and very big headed, will never hear the end of it winner.
All we need to say is that Andrew B is now the undisputed world luge champion 2009 as he thoroughly won 4 - 1 the races on the second session on the Queenstown tracks. Those keeping count the final score was A Baker 11 wins and A Day 7 wins, sorry Nick but racing skills clearly don't run in the family.
After Queenstown we made our way to Te Anau so we could visit Milford Sound. The drive to Milford Sound is over an alpine road which gets more and more stunning as you near Milford Sound. The mountains become closer and hundreds of waterfalls are pouring off the mountains to create a jaw dropping spectacle. We took a boat trip out on to the sound itself which was a true treat. The canyons, waterfalls, mountains and water create a place on Earth no word in the Thesaurus could describe.
After Milford we made our way to Invercargill. A place not highly rated in our guide book but we had a very special reason to go. If anybody has seen the film The Worlds Fastest Indian (which everyone should see and then go follow your dreams) will know it is the true story of Burt Monroe. Well for those that don't know he broke the land speed record at Bonneville in the USA but lived in Invercargill. We were chuffed to be able to see the bike he used and also reproductions which were used in the movie.
Also in Invercargill we visited Bluff which is kind of like the lands end of New Zealand (luckily there was no charge Mr. Day otherwise after flying 20000 miles and driving about 10000 miles we wouldn't of bothered). Next stop Antarctica!
After Invercargill we drove and stopped at Tiramau for a few days of relaxation and that brings you up to date.
We are now in Hanmer Springs which is excellent, campsite still a bit rough but yesterday we went to a place called amaze n golf which I'm sure those eagled eyed readers would have worked out it's a maze and a golf course. Correct but this one was different, the same standard mini golf course which had been done very well indeed and properly the best maze in the world without a doubt. In fact if Carlsberg made a maze I think this is the one they would have built. This maze is just not your standard run of the mill get lost 20,000 times but this maze is also a challenge, you are given an clue sheet as your enter, and, you have to explore the maze and find all the answers to the clues you have been given so you can solve the water puzzle which allows you to exit the maze to get your prize. The guy running the maze said we should do it as a race and as Andrew D had just won the golf and as I, Andrew D was still getting over the shock of being beaten on the luge (sorry Nick) was well up for the challenge. We set of alone into the maze made up of sheer stone walls looking for the answers to help us escape. All was well until it was time to enter the dark tunnels, this now became not only a race but also a matter of getting over the fear factor that had been thrown in. As things rubbed your face as you felt very slowly round the caves looking for those answers. Back into the sunlight it was time to move on and enter the burnt out tunnels, these tunnels had tiny holes in them that were just the right size for a blow pipe to be inserted and as you walked along all you got as the sound of darts hitting all around you. Round the corner and a voice shouts 'watch out" as the wall nearest you collapses. By this time my heart was racing ten to the dozen and I was so glad to see Andrew B looking calm and cool as a cucumber having solved all the clues and was ready for the water challenge. He kindly at that point took me to the remaining clues I still had to solve (which wasn't that many) before we tried the water challenge and freedom.
You guessed it, guess who got soaked as a bucket of water landed straight on my head, but I was free. Andrew B made it through dry as a bone, it was something to do with counting how long you had to cross the stones before a ton of water went all over you. This was the most fun and we both walked back to the campground in high spirits.
We are looking forward to our flight to Fiji on Sunday. But we have numerous things we still want to do which we will let you know all about next time.
As we finish writing this piece of blog and look up to the clouds over the snow capped mountain peaks it reminds me of what they say about New Zealand being the land of the long white cloud, this is oh so very true. They maybe should add "the land of the long white cloud so long as it's not raining when it becomes the land of the longest black clouds".
The best way for us to describe New Zealand is that it is like your favourite box of chocolates and when you have finished with them, sit back, relax and just look at the chocolate box scenery that is any and everywhere you decide to look.
Thank you for reading and if you have got this far well done and see you soon!!
All our love
Andrew and Andrew