After a three hour ferry ride across the Cook Straight and through the Marlborough Sounds our intrepid Kiwi adventurers arrived in Picton. As soon as we collected our bags it was back on the bus to head through the Marlborough region to Nelson. On the way there was time for a quick stop at one of the vineyards that the region is famous for. We sampled some of the fine produce and picked up a couple of bottles to take with us on our journey. We arrived in Nelson in the early afternoon sunshine as some of our bus-mates headed out to the Abel Tasman National Park for some skydiving action. We made the most of the sunshine to walk to the geographical centre of New Zealand for some views of the area. That evening we got to sample a selection of the Mac's Brewery range in a bit of free beer tasting at our hostel. I can confirm that the beer in New Zealand isn't as good as the beer at home. The next morning we got up bright and early to get a bus out to the Abel Tasman National Park. When we arrived we got on board a water taxi which whisked us around some of the local aquatic sights including split apple rock and some New Zealand fur seals. It then dropped us off on a beach so that we could walk along the Coastal Track, one of New Zealand's great walks. After a little bit of a detour over some rocks and through the not quite low tide sea we arrived at Anchorage Bay in time to meet back up with the water taxi which took us back to civilisation just as the heavens opened.
The next morning was time to start our trip to Westport. The nice weather of the previous two days seemed like a distant memory but the rain wasn't enough to deter some of the nutters on our bus from taking a very short dip in Lake Rotoiti, one of the South Island's many glacier lakes. Westport is an old goldmining town and unless you're interested in jet boating or quad biking doesn't have much to offer. We took a quick trip to the black sand beach for some photos then spent the rest of the night watching some quality films (Shrek) and some not so quality films (Misery).
The following morning was even wetter than the day before but that didn't deter us from walking to the pankake rocks and blowholes of Punakaiki. Our other stop was Greymouth where we bought some fancy dress costumes for the night's approaching party at the Mahinapua Hotel (or Poo Pub as it's known). The theme for the night was the letter 'C' in honour of the birthday boy Chris who was travelling on our bus. With that in mind Fiona dressed as a pack of cards and I decided to dress as a Christmas Tree. Needless to say much Jaegermeister was consumed that night.
Slightly hungover, the next morning we hopped on the bus bound for Franz Josef. After a brief stop for a fry up (and the leftovers of the really hungover people's fry ups!) we arrived at our destination in the early afternoon. Due to a slight issue involving a broken bed in our first room (pretty much a shed with a bed in it) we got upgraded to an ensuite double complete with Sky tv. That left us with time for a walk to a view point near the foot of the Franz Josef glacier to give us a sneak peak of what we would be scaling the next day. The following morning we got kitted up with crampons and headed out with our guides to the foot of the glacier. We opted to go up in group one which meant we were the first up and got to scale more precarious ledges and squeeze through more crevasses and caves than the other groups. One member of our party remarked that the glacier was like a giant sweet "kind of like a Fox's Glacier mint" but I won't name names! After an exhausting day we sampled some quality Kiwi Fush N Chups, relaxed in the hostel's hot tub and drank a couple of cold tubes in the bar.
The next day proved to be relatively uneventful with a trip to Wanaka. There were plenty of stops to take photos of the scenery including a stop at Lake Matheson, New Zealand's most photographed lake. The most exciting thing that happened in Wanaka that evening was probably the small collision between the bus and a foolish local Kiwi. The next morning we paid a visit to Puzzling World which is full of optical illusions like water which flows up hill and a room full of faces which follow you around. As well as that there is a maze which I may or may not have got lost in while everyone was waiting back on the bus for me! After Wanaka the next stop on the circuit was "the adventure capital of the world", Queenstown.