So another week has gone by and we have parked up for a few days in Christchurch. When I left off last time we had just enjoyed Puzzle World and were ready to tackle a hike through Mt Aspiring National Park. And so we got up bright and early on Wednesday, made a pack lunch, dusted off our walking boots and started driving towards the start of the track. Lonely Planet had described it as a fairly easy 2 hour return walk and so we were looking forward to a gentle stroll...
After driving for around an hour on a dirt road which also meant we got caught in sheep traffic again we arrived at a point where a stream ran across the road and there was no bridge! Great! I'm sure if you're in a 4WD or a 4x4 this wouldn't cause a problem but our little Toyota would have struggled to keep her nose out of the water and having worked on the AA account for years I know that "Getting water in the exhaust can be costly an expensive", plus as we are not carrying mobile phone it would have meant a walk back to the nearest phone box which would I would have probably finished next Thursday!!!
Reluctantly I turned the car and I don't need to repeat some of the choice words that I used. I was seriously pissed off and wasn't going to give up without a serious hike so we pulled up to the nearest point that we could walk from and started. The only difference was that this was a hard climb up a mountain (don't be fooled by the name which was Rocky Hill) and was around 3 hours. So as we walked up, up, up again, and up eventually we made it to the top for some spectacular views of Mt Aspiring and Wanaka Lake. We made it down pretty quickly and were soon back in our little prison cell.
That night we thought we deserved a treat and so headed in to town to go to the cinema. This wasn't your normal Odeon, it was more like a home decorated in old comfy sofas. It felt more like someone's living room and according to unreliable sources (Lonely Planet) had the best home made cookies in town. At the interval (yes there was an interval half way through the film) I made a dash through the cinema for the cookie counter (as the cookie are made fresh for the interval and there aren't enough for everyone). I think this is the fastest I have moved since I was 16!!! Anyway I came back with a selection and we enjoyed the rest of the film. If you're interested we watched Gran Tourino and it is pretty good - nuff said.
We left Wanaka on Thursday and went to Queenstown which really is gorgeous. Lots of people had told me that they really liked this place and they weren't wrong, it is a beautyful alpine town surrounded by mountains. We headed straight for the gondola which climbs to the top of the mountain overlooking the town. When we got to the top the views of the town and surrounding mountains are pretty impressive so we took a few pictures and headed for a Luge ride.
If you have never heard of Luge ride, it is basically like being in a go kart with no engine. You have handle bars to control which direction you go in and breaks but no form of acceleration. This relies on gravity and as you are going down a steep decline on a hill it can go pretty fast around the track. This was so much fun and we both loved it - although my Luge did creak when I got out (as you might guess I am carrying a few extra pounds). That night we went out for a huge meal - and I managed to eat my own body weight in beef! I'm not kidding my steak was huge and pretty much covered the entire plate.
I think my stomach was still trying to digest the meal the next morning when we headed to Milford Sound to do a cruise around the Fjord.
Milford Sound - What I can I say? Rudyard Kipling had once described it as the eighth Wonder of the World and who am to disagree? I had seen the pictures and read the guide books which say you shouldn't miss it, but to be honest none of it can describe the sheer magnitude and presence of the area. The whole area is a Fjord in the south west of New Zealand and is a World Heritage site and it's probably New Zealand's most famous tourist destination. I was in complete awe of it and lost count of the times I said "that's unbelievable". You can't help simply looking around and feeling that you are somewhere special and the stunning waterfalls that you pass look like a scene out of a fantasy Hollywood blockbuster. Our cruise on a small boat was very enjoyable and the captain got very close to the waterfalls - practically underneath one of them!
The town of Milford isn't actually even a town - there's basically a cafe and a pier and that's about it. So unless you are camping you need to stay in Te Aneu which around a 2 hour drive. The drive from Te Aneu is surly one of the most stunning in the world. Mountains, cliffs, flat planes, lakes and even a 1 km tunnel right through one of the mountains mean you spend most of the trip trying to make sure you keep your eyes on the road ahead rather than the scenery.
It was going to be difficult topping Milford Sound and by the time we had arrived in Dunedin on Saturday we had been as far south as we were going to be. We only really passed through Dunedin so I don't have much to say about it. It is a nice enough town but not really my favorite.
Our next stop was going to be Mt Cook - New Zealand's highest mountain. As we began driving towards the mountain the first thing we noticed was the colour of the lake. It was an amazing topas/blue colour. Later we found out that this was because the water came from glaciers hence the amazing colour. In contrast the field were a luminous gold which made even the smallest rock it glow. And when you put that all together you can imagine that it was quite a picture - very surreal in fact. I should also point out that it was extremely windy on Sunday - the sort of wind that makes the car jolt every time it hits it - and by the time we reached Mt Cook National Park the rain was coming down very hard and the fog meant we couldn't see very far either. We decided that this wasn't the best or the safest time to go walking in mountains and so headed back on the same road we had come and on towards Christchurch. We just had to enjoy the views of Mt Cook from far.
And so yesterday we arrived in Christchurch and are going to be here for a few days before heading towards the North Island. So that's it for now, tomorrow we're off to get on a train journey through the Alps to Greymouth and back - but for now we're off to watch Hell's Kitchen USA!!!