Our last day in Queenstown was spent farewelling all we loved about the amazing town. We bought our last bit of fudge, ate our final Fergburger and sat by the water one final time. That afternoon we begrudgingly headed off, this time headed to our most southerly destination, Milford Sound. Knowing the route from to Milford was just as amazing as Milford itself we headed down to where the awesomeness began and decided to spend the night right at the start.
Finding a spot next to the river, we set up camp, far away from everyone else who was there. Knowing full well how bad the mosquitos were going to be, before we even hopped out of the car we covered ourselves from head to toe in repellent. After this we explored our new home for the night, following rivers all over the place. This night was quite an easy one as we had quite the early wake up.
After a quick breakfast in the morning we hit the road early aiming to be at a Milford Sound boat cruise by the mid afternoon. As it was only a two hour drive from where we were to the Sound we had set aside heaps of time to see the attractions along the way. First stop was Mirror Lakes, a lake usually so still and clear you could see your reflection. However this particular morning the weather decided to be windy as, making any attempts to fix the hair a make up using the river impossible. From here we made our way to a sign signaling the 45 degree latitude line. Signifying the spot where you are equal distances from the equator and the south pole we jumped between either side just because we could.
Eventually this did get boring and we decided we should make a move on. After a couple more viewpoint stops we made it to my favourite stop of the ride. I don't really remember the name but this waterfall was incredible. Having the bluest water I have ever seen this place screamed to be jumped in. Knowing us, there was very little convincing needed before we were half naked and decided to take a plunge below the waterfall. Whilst we did freeze for the entire time we were in there it was simply incredible. As the waterfall is quite the tourist hotspot on the road to Milford, busses were always passing by. I'm pretty sure kisses were blown with us featuring in 100s of people NZ scrapbooks after the amount of photos I saw taken of us in the water.
Whilst around every bend there was something more incredible than the last, one spot that stood out was a place simple known as the Chasm. As we running late and our boat departed in just over 30 minutes, once we had gulped down lunch we made the 20 minute walk to the Chasm into a quick 5 minute run. The run was definitely worth it as at this spot was a massive swirling waterfall of death. With bridges going directly over it, we could get right on top it making for an impressive view. However with little time to spare, we took our quick look and then made our quick run back.
Arriving at the boat just as they were boarding we quickly found some seats and settled in for the ride. It was a spectacular trip where we saw massive waterfalls, amazing mountains and even some seals. We managed to score some spectacular photos and was definitely worth the drive up. Whilst the wind did pick up during the trip, we braved it just so we could get the best view. We even got a bit wet when el capitano decided to take the boat straight into a waterfall.
Once back on dry land, we started our long journey back to a spot we could camp for the night. This trip too was filled with stopovers as we had the luxury of as much time as we wanted. We found plenty walks along the way, which we filled with rock climbs, ice caving and tunnel exploration. We ended up spending the night at a campsite close to the one the night before. Here too we loaded up on the repellent but this time had a few drinks, with nowhere at all to be the next day.
Aiming to go to Mount Cook as our next stop we decided to take the five hour drive and squash it into once day. This was probably our longest continuous drive of the journey. Whilst we tried to get up early and go do some shopping and brekky before the drive, by the time we actually got on the road it was already 12pm. So we drove and drove and drove. We did however make the discovery along the way that we would be passing within 10kms of Queenstown. Unable to resist, we made the short drive back to this glorious town, got yet another Fergberger and filled up our diminishing fudge supplies.
Eventually by 6pm, we made it to our campsite about 50km from Mount Cook. Not having a decent bathroom in the past 3 days, we spent hours there, just showering, catching up on the internet and making a decent meal. With Mount Cook in the background and the bright blue lake Punaki lake next to us we had dinner outside that night with steak and spaghetti bolognaise on the menu. It was an absolutely amazing spot and the perfect way to unwind after the killer drive.
Straight to Mount Cook info centre the next morning where we spent almost an hour trying to decide on what hike to do. With so many choices, we struggled trying to find which difficulty and time length suited us best. Eventually we decided on a decent three hour hike taking us to a phenomenal view of the peak and to a giant river filed with icebergs. Crossing three suspension bridges on the way, we made it very exciting, rocking the bridges side to side and jumping up and down. As fun as this was it seemed like others on the bridges didn't share our excitement and thus we moved on, to jump on bridges another day.
Arriving at the end quite pooped, we initially planned to just take a 10 minute break and then start heading back. However after Glaze commenced an expedition to find some ice to play with, he stumbled upon a river that would entertain us for the next hour and half. With an amazing photo spot on the other side, people were wading through this uncrossable river just to get this pic. However to us, three engineers and a pilot, this was unacceptable.
Realizing building a plane was out of the question, we all decided to take up civil engineering for the day and construct a bridge. With rocks as our materials and hands as our tools we spent ages, throwing 100s of rocks into this river, creating both a bridge and a dam. After much effort we did eventually succeed. Well, the water did just go around our dam (the river was pumping quite heavily), however a walkable bridge was built and we were happy. We even managed to convince a tourist with a big camera to walk across it. Although quickly decided to not tell others to do so once we saw how close he was to falling in.
That afternoon was spent walking back to our van and on the road again. Not such a long drive this time, heading just a bit up the freeway to another lake, Lake Tekapo. Here we found a perfect spot, told we couldn't camp there, found another, discovered the road was closed and then finally finding a sweet place to spend the night. Right on the lake, we managed to find an amazing campsite with no one around for ages.
After a really late wakeup and breakfast we attempted once more to drive on the road that was closed the night before. Taking us up to the top of the massive Mount John, it gave us a spectacular view of Lake Tekapo and the entire surrounding areas. As there is an observatory up on this hill, the whole area for 10s of kms in all directions is a light restricted zone. Thinking we would see thousands of stars from up here the night before was the reason we attempted to camp there in the first place. However once on top we discovered that the moon was too bright to see anything anyway, making our slightly worse campsite slightly better.
After getting all the photos we wanted from up on top, we realized we needed to plan what we wanted to get done in the last 4 days of the trip. With very little left on the route between Taupo and Christchurch, we needed to find things to fill time.
After some advice given to me by my loving father we decided we would head to a little French town, past Christchurch, on the coast known as Akaroa. With a gorgeous drive in, we took our time, stopping off often just to take in a sight or stretch the legs on the short hour drive. The town itself was cute but there was very little to do there. After visiting every shop in town (literally every single shop), taking in the view over lunch and buying out yet another fudge store we headed back out, off to find a campsite for the night. That night was spent right by the water in a proper campsite next to beach. Here we made from scratch our final major meal of the trip. Consisting of burgers with the works and our own version of potato wedges it was a meal that could rival even the great Fergberger.
Wanting to kill some time on the way back from Akaroa we made a pact that we would stop at almost anything that slightly interested us. As we are very easily distracted, during this we managed to stop for a drinks break, a cheese factory, a winery, another drinks break, a pie stop, a milkshake and finally a wine tasting. The wine tasting actually managed to take up a decent amount of time as the bartended loved us. Whilst I'm sure it was just a way to get up to buy some wine (it surprisingly worked), he turned a $5 wine tasting of 4 wines very quickly into a sampling of the whole collection. I'm pretty sure we drank almost 10 different wines and learnt all about the differences between them.
Christchurch itself also managed to take up a decent amount of time. Between the actual attractions and finding places to sleep near the city, we spent a lot of time there. Whilst we knew there was the earthquake there two years ago, I don't think any of us were prepared for how much damage we would actually see. With almost the entire CBD blocked off, road works everywhere and majority of shops closed the city itself was very depressing. The streets were constantly dead, traffic was non existent and finding places to go was very challenging. Nevertheless we did our best and tried to make the city fun.
Ever since Joni saw the map with the advertisement on it for the Military Air Museum, there was no chance we were going to get out it. Wanting to see some of the amazing aircrafts behind NZs small air force we were dragged along to this massive building to take a walk around. Not wanting to pay a lot, we said to Joni as long as it isn't too expensive we will put up with it for a couple of hours. Not only was it 100% free but this place was absolutely incredible. With some sick airplanes, helicopters and war gear we ended up spending almost three hours here. I was very happy Joni pushed us to go with as we all had a spectacular time.
Another highlight of Christchurch was a place called Re:Start or better known as Container City. For those of you who haven't heard of it, this is essentially a shopping centre made out of containers after the earthquake. Whilst it is surprisingly upper class, with big shops such as Kathmandu and some of the containers actually fake it was a really cool concept that was pulled off really well. Right next to the crumbling CBD, they had started to rebuild and it looked amazing. It was great to see that the city is starting to get back on its feet despite the depressing mood throughout the town.
Our campsite in Christchurch was nothing special. Wanting to avoid paying for a proper site we took the risk of parking on the streets, right in the middle of the city. Hoping to avoid a fine we found the darkest street we could, away from the houses. However we kind of shot ourselves in the foot by being obnoxiously loud and drinking till all hours. Nevertheless the next morning we awoke with no fine and actually saw a police car drive past and take absolutely no notice. I guess the Police have bigger issues on their hands in a town like this.
Our last day was fantastic, wrapping of the entire trip in a spectacular way. After visiting container city in the morning we swung past our hostel and dropped off all our stuff. Aware we had to say goodbye to Mike Wazowski that afternoon, we cleaned that van from top to bottom, finding all the dirt we had neglected to clean over the past three weeks. As we still had the van until the afternoon, we decided to take advantage of it and head to the Antarctic Museum, a place I remember loving last time I was here. We went into the snow room that simulated Antarctic storm (getting down to a cool -20 Celsius), saw penguins and just learnt a lot of cool stuff about Antarctica. We almost also went for a 4WD snow mobile ride of our own, but when we learnt that they actually drive on the roads, we thought it be best not to take them off by ourselves.
That evening we headed to the Casino, off to spend what remaining money we had left. After quickly losing $20 dollars each on a quick spin of the roulette wheel, we headed to blackjack and the pokies with some mixed results. Not quite hungry yet we stumbled around the casino some more actually finding a trivia night. However by halfway through, our stomachs started to rumble and we were getting smashed in the trivia so we headed off for our final meal of Pizza at a restaurant called Spags.
Now to 'shake' it up I could crack a joke to wrap this blog, however I think I should just get to the 'epicentre' of it all as it is my 'fault' that this blog has gone on for so long.
Waking up this morning at 4:15 to catch our flight, I wanted nothing more to snooze through this flight. However as I write now, I realize I have spent almost the entire flight typing this blog up. To sum this and indeed New Zealand up, this place was phenomenal. Scoring perfect weather and sticking somewhat to budget we managed to pull it off pretty well. Whilst it was a bit expensive at times, we did what we could and after a trip like this I'm more than happy to come home broke. To all those we met, we are expecting accommodation as soon as we come there. We know you loved us so much how could you say no. To all those planning a trip away soon, NZ has got to be on your list even though it is so close to home. Surprisingly there are very few Aussies here despite the amazing experiences to be had.
And with that I farewell you all once more. Hope you have enjoyed reading all of these much more than I have enjoyed writing them.
Always with Love,