The day we left Australia was quite a busy one....I had to get an x-ray done, pick up our cameras from Olympus, sort out selling our van, pack and finally drive to Sydney airport in our hire car before drinking a few beers and falling asleep in the car! When we landed in Christchurch we picked up our Ford Focus and had a wonder round town. Most people either hire a campervan and sleep in it, hire a car and sleep in hostels or go on the bus and sleep in hostels...we opted for hiring a car and sleeping in it for 3 weeks!
Christchurch is a really cool town, some nice old buildings, a few parks, an old tram that runs through the town centre and obviously some nice bars that we happened to end up in that evening! We left the next afternoon and headed to Mount Cook and stopped at Lake Tekapo to sleep that night. The lakes are incredibly blue mainly due to the type of rock they have here. We climbed a mountain near Mount Cook which gave us some amazing views of the two glaciers that had torn the mountains apart and met at the bottom creating a massive wall of broken and crushed rock. We decided to leave that evening and met some people in the middle of nowhere who were going to a festival called Area 9. We thought we’d give it a bash but the guy on the door wouldn’t let us in and the next thing we knew we’d driven all the way to Queenstown, about 300km, and went out for a few beers there! Queenstown is even cooler than Christchurch...a ski town feel with mountains all around but also a massive bright blue lake and a dry desert-y landscape. We went Jet Boating in skippers’ canyon the next day...it’s a bizarre feeling because the boat just turns instantly and runs on really shallow water so we were flying through these canyons less than a meter from the rocks and then doing 360 degree turns! The canyon was an old gold mine and there were loads of old bits of equipment that had rusted in the water. It was a bit like a Disney ride!
We then drove down to Milford Sound where there are massive mountains sticking out of the water and waterfalls running down them wherever you look. They get something like 10 metres of rainfall a year so don’t complain back home!! We wangled a free night in the hostel there and made the most of the showers! Then back to Queenstown for the best part of the whole trip so far! I had always thought jumping out of a plane was a stupid idea and I wouldn’t enjoy doing one. I kept thinking about it and running it through in my head and decided it was probably the biggest adrenaline rush I could get and it needed to be done! I also assumed that I had always thought it was stupid because I was afraid of doing it and there’s nothing better than overcoming a fear so I thought, why not! Also if I was ever going to do one then Queenstown has to be one of the best places in the world to do it for the scenery and also the price; half the price of a dreary wet boring view in England! Anyway, it was the best thing I’ve ever done and I didn’t stop smiling or laughing until the next day. The minute before you actually jump is the best, you’re not scared just really excited and can feel you heart beating like crazy! Then when you shuffle to the open door and see the land below and know you are going to freefall at 200kph you just hope you remember every second of it!
I could talk about that all day but I’m sure you guys have some sort of work to be getting on with?! We then drove the 300km to Franz Joseph via lake Wanaka (pronounced Wonika) and Fox Glacier. Franz and Fox glaciers are two of the 3 biggest and lowest glaciers in the world and the 3rd we are going to in a few weeks in Chile! It’s hard to tell from the photos just how big they are but we walked ¾ of the way up Franz Joseph and back again in about 5 hours! You need walking boots and crampons to walk on the ice and you have to follow a guide. Two people died on Fox Glacier a few weeks ago because they walked on a part they shouldn’t just to get a photo. The further up we went the steeper it got and the bigger the waves got (the crevasses that form all over the glacier). We often had to use ropes to ‘shuffle’ down the sides of the crevasses and the guide used a pickaxe to carve out some steps. Anyway, it was an amazing day and completely different to two days before!
We left Franz-Joseph and drove up to Hamner Springs where it just rained so we carried on to Kaikoura to do whale-watching but decided to save our cash for a wine tasting day out in the Marlborough region! We hired a bike and went round to the wineries as they call them! We tried about 5-8 wines in each place and went to about 8 wineries so by the end we were pretty tipsy! We also bought a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc from a place that doesn’t export their wine at all so we knew we wouldn’t be having it again. We were in that place for about 45 minutes chatting to the lady and drinking as much as we could! We even learnt a bit from it all and I thought I would pass on what I learnt. For NZ white wine to be on the safe side get a Sauvignon Blanc because they all taste pretty good and have quite subtle flavours but are quite dry. If you want something a little sweeter and fruitier then go for the Chardonnay but if you want something quite unusual then go for the Pinot Gris. For NZ red wine go for a Pinot Noir...it’s amazing!! Anyway I’ll stop pretending to be Oz Clarke now and I’ll sum up the South Island of New Zealand....It’s incredible and you have to come here one day. Its 19000km away from London and probably the best part of £1000 return on a plane but make sure you do it at some point. I’m sat on a ferry heading to Wellington on the North Island now hopefully for another awesome 10 days before heading to South America!!
Oh by the way, bit of a geeky one for some of you, did you ever wonder where the P&O ferries went from Portsmouth and Dover? Well I’m on the Pride of Cherbourg right now and it’s still got P&O written all over it! I’ve been on the same hideous ferry on both sides of the world and both hemispheres! Oh and if you’re wondering why these blogs don’t talk about food and culture like the Asia ones then it’s because we can only afford to eat Subway and there is no culture! The people are really nice out here and we’re going to do a bit of Mauri culture in Roturua next week so expect to have to trawl through my cultural opinions of a whole country again in a week or so!