So my wonderful host family has gone on holiday this week, which meant I got one too! I took advantage of this chunk of time off to go spend nine days traveling the South Island. Now while it sounds like a long time, it really isn’t. The South is so vast and there’s so much to see you need at least two and a half weeks to see it all. I decided to do the Deep South now and then the northwestern part before I leave in August. So I packed up my bags and drove the two hours to Auckland Airport very early on Saturday morning to arrive in Queenstown by lunch.
I spent Saturday night in Queenstown before heading south on a Stray Backpackers Bus. Then on Tuesday night through Friday morning I was back in Queenstown. For simplicity sake, I’ll just put my whole report of Queenstown here. Queenstown is the adventure capital of New Zealand. It’s where the bunny jump was invented and most people come here to do that or the plethora of other activities. It’s got the best ski mountains in the country as well as skydiving, drinking scene, speed boating, and more. I opted to do an epic zip line trip that involved the “World’s Steepest Zipline.” It was pretty awesome and the best part was hanging by my feet like a monkey while hurting down a mountain at 50mph. Queenstown is pretty expensive though so I spent a lot of time wandering around exploring, and trying to conserve money. That did not go so well and most of my money went to delicious food and drinks. It’s proper winter weather down here in the south and Queenstown is a lot like Lake Placid. Quite a ski town vibe. Because I missed winter in NY it was really nice to get a taste of it down here.
Milford Sound/The Fiordlands
On Sunday morning at 6am I hopped on a Stray bus down south. We drove down through some stunning scenery to the Fiordlands national park, the biggest park in New Zealand. Now, Milford Sound is actually not a Sound but a fjord. To compensate for mistaking it, New Zealand named the national park around the “Sound” the Fiordlands. Except they spelled fjord wrong. That’s New Zealand for you in a nutshell. Naming and spelling things wrong though not really caring. Milford Sound is absolutely beautiful though and we got to do a boat trip through it. It was bloody freezing but the views of the Sound and the park around it were worth it. We stayed the night at a place called Gunn’s Camp in the national park. This camp was originally built to hold the families of the workers building the road through the park and has been preserved historically since then. That means no wifi, mobile phone signal, or power except from 5-10pm. Instead there’s a roaring fire, free hot water bottles, and plenty of board games. It was fun to hang out with the other Backpackers on the bus and refreshing to be unplugged for a while.
The next place we went to was Stewart Island, sometimes known as New Zealand’s Third Island. It’s an expensive hour boat ride away from the mainland. Stewart Island is suppose to be the best place to see wild kiwis and blue penguins in all of New Zealand. It’s also southern lights season and Stewart Island is about as close to them as you can get. Unfortunately after running around the island until 1am in sub-freezing temperatures and waking up at dawn to go down to the beach, we saw no lights, kiwis, or penguins. It was frustrating, but it was still fun to be on the island with the other Backpackers. I made friends with a young Swedish couple, some British girls, a guy from Romania, someone from the Netherlands, and a Norwegian girl just to name a few! We stayed on the island Monday night and did a coastal hike on Tuesday before catching the ferry back home. Then up to Queenstown again for a bit.
After the second stop in Queenstown we all nursed some fairly major hangovers and caught the bus up to Mt. Cook in the Southern Alps. It’s apparently the tallest peak in Australasia though it didn’t look that large. Our hostel was near the foot of the mountain and had *gasp* en suite bathrooms. Unheard of luxury. My friend Isuzu and I set out to do the famous three hour walk right to the base of the mountain but had to turn back before we could finish. She was coming down with the flu and the intense cold and wind was doing nothing good for my hangover. Though we didn’t do the whole walk we got great views and we’re back in time to watch some rugby and other tv in bed. A glamorous backpacker life!
We drove from The mountain to Christchurch via Lake Tekapo. At the lake most people on the bus elected to go snow tubing or ice skating but because I can do that in Rochester, and this trip has really done a number on my bank account, I just hung out in a cafe. We arrived late in Christchurch and because everyone was leaving the next day spent the night hanging out together and watching the Lions tackle the Crusaders (Christchurch’s team) in rugby. We even got treated to a Christchurch specialty when a 4.2 earthquake hit for about three seconds. Guess I could cross that off my bucket list. The next day I spent the morning exploring Christchurch before flying out that evening. Christchurch is a sad city to walk through because you can tell how amazing it used to be and the earthquake devastation is right in front of you.
Not too much to tell you on this front because everything is going great. I’m still so happy in New Zealand, get on great with my host family, have lots of adventures and friends, and the boys are great. So here are some cute photos to tide you over until the next post!